After writing my Flashback Friday post about planning, I started thinking about the most unpredictable parts of my life and how I manage those.
Parenting has given me more practice in unexpected situations than anything else in my life. Mostly I do okay with this. I’m actually very good at analyzing situations that I expect to be unpredictable. I basically never expect my children to be predictable.
But planning out the rest of my life and having everything else be mostly expected gives me the energy to expect and adapt to the unexpected from the small unpredictable people for whom I am responsible.
And in thinking about it further, I’m realizing that my ability to deal with the unpredictability of my children is partially because I’m an expert in it. I have read extensively about child development and I’m very familiar with the different theories and methods, which has allowed me to be very flexible.
I have so many tools in my parenting toolbox that I can nearly always reach in there and pull out something new that fits almost any situation. Maybe that’s partly why I spent so much time reading about parenting. It wasn’t some pointless “special interest” – it was mostly me figuratively lying in bed and thinking of all the possibilities ahead of time for years and years of potential parenting situations.
I credit my children with providing me practice in being patient and flexible-looking to others. I would never ever recommend that anyone become a parent who didn’t really want to be one, but I think that parenting provides many benefits to Autistic parents as well as to our children.
The Autistic parents I know personally tend to parent similarly to how I parent. We all try to find balanced approaches that respect our children as the small people they are. I haven’t yet met an Autistic parent who treats their child like a possession, as so many other parents seem to. I’m sure there are those of us out there who do – children as possessions is a common cultural belief in my society – but in my circle we all independently came to embrace very respectful ways of parenting.
We try not to shame our children for getting overwhelmed or not being able to deal with a situation – after all, we know all too well what that’s like. I have never assumed that my children are seeking to manipulate me because that’s not something I believe is age-appropriate for small children. As they get older, maybe, but I’d rather deal with their feelings and overwhelmedness while making sure I’m not being manipulated on my end than to read specious (plausible, but incorrect) motives into everything they do.
Anyhow, having a solid understanding of child development and a large variety of parenting tools and responses to draw from have been invaluable to me as an Autistic parent.
Yes, some days my children know that I won’t be doing much with them if I need to recover from previous activities. They know what boredom is and they help out quite a lot on my really bad days, which are thankfully not too terribly frequent. They know that I struggle with things that many other adults just breeze on through. We don’t look or act much like other families.
But through it all, as I try to show understanding of their age-appropriate needs and challenges, they show understanding to me as well. I have hope that I’m raising compassionate small people who feel understood themselves. I hope that they’ll retain the ability to be *compassionate and understanding of others for the rest of their lives ❤
*I’m also teaching them how to disengage and how to tell when someone is harmful to them so that they will have background in protecting themselves not just being understanding to people who have no interest in being decent people themselves. There’s an important balance there. Knowing when to back away and protect oneself is a vital life skill for both Autistic and allistic children.