Sunday, February 10, 2013

He's Autistic - There Are No Perfect Kids

"He's autistic." I said it twice, once to the orthodontist, once to the dental technician trying to put spacers between the the teeth of my overgrown 11 yr old writhing in the chair, yelling "It hurts! What are you doing? Stop!" I said it not in explanation, but in apology. Then I felt shamed by my reaction. Because my children's imperfections are not a reflection of me and I don't ever want my sweet boy to be ashamed of how he was created because I treat his differences as "imperfections".

I know he feels pain differently; I know he needs things explained thoroughly before they're gone through. The failure was in my expectation that he was listening when the orthodontist was explaining. "We need to adjust our expectations to anticipate mistakes and even foresee misbehavior." (p.49) My embarrassment put a tone in my voice that could make my child feel "less than" for something over which he has no control. We should not let anger or embarrassment decide their punishment when they've done wrong, either; keep your emotions in check when handing out consequences (I need to try to keep my emotions in check at all times, given my own challenges).

Another area where I need work is being a "yes" mom. Too often I say "no" because of my own sense of selfishness or inconvenience. I now emphatically say "yes" to many things my children ask - the emphasis reminds me I'm helping them grow and yet allowing them to be children. "YES, you may play outside; bundle up." "YES, we'll play a board game; YOU must put it away when we're done." "YES, you can take up the entire downstairs to build a Lego city." (Okay, I didn't say "yes" to that one because they didn't ask before they did it - but I let them keep it there far longer than was safe for our feet!)

Some other things that caught my attention in this chapter:
Maturity of the brain doesn't happen until around age 25 (!). Making mistakes, trying, failing and trying again, is how the brain optimally grows. I often expect maturity from my kids before their brain is at that age and stage of development. Institute realistic expectations.
A child's desire to be independent is not personal to me as a parent. I'm supposed to be working toward that and out of my parenting job, right?
When my dreams for my children clash with reality I adjust my expectations and love my children unconditionally. This child is made uniquely by God - s/he can't be compared to anyone else.

Only God loves perfectly. But we are called to mirror His love that makes it safe to fail, safe to be who one is made to be. "Love is the language that needs to be spoken between imperfect mom and imperfect child." (p.66)

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