I, like many Autistic people, struggle with executive functioning (EF), which makes many aspects of parenting and running a household especially difficult for me.
Note: For a general overview of what EF is and how it can impact people’s lives, please check out this series of posts from Cynthia Kim.
Over the past several months, I’ve noticed that I tend to outsource, whenever possible, the planning and executing of daily activities.
For example: I’ll frequently ask Counterpart what he prefers rather than try and figure out what I should do out of what is often an overwhelming number of options.
A typical decision to ask for input goes like this, written as a series of questions and answers between myself and myself:
What should I make for dinner?
Too many options, I can’t possibly decide.
Okay. So, what to do then?
Let’s ask Counterpart what he wants to have for dinner!
Excellent plan, let’s!
And then I go and very kindly let Counterpart do all the deciding as though I’m doing him a favor or something. When really, the motivation I had was less “What’s best for Counterpart?” and more “I’m so overwhelmed I cannot deal and must put off this overwhelming decision onto some innocent bystander!”
Basically, putting someone else in charge of the decision-making is not quite as benevolent, kind, or accommodating as I’d like to think it is and it actually puts a fair amount of stress and overwhelm on Counterpart. He’s not Autistic, but he’s otherwise neurodivergent and struggles a bit with some mental health issues. He also loves me very much and is an extremely kind person so if I ask for help, he’s going to do everything in his power to help out. Often he will help out to his detriment (to the point of causing himself harm).
However, as I remembered this evening, we also have children who need to learn how to problem-solve and do adulty things someday.
After all, we created all these auxiliary brains who we feed and care for and to whom we are also responsible for teaching important things, like how to make adult decisions and take care of a house.
So, I asked myself this evening, why not get their help with these decisions like what to have for dinner?
I went through several facts in my mind:
What we eat for dinner affects them.
They complain about it when I make the dinner decision either by myself or with Counterpart’s extensive input.
And someday they will likely need to know how to figure out what to have for dinner and how to go about having it.
That is how we ended up having a spontaneous family council meeting about dinner this evening in the kitchen. I took dinner ideas from everyone who wanted to contribute an idea and we all together
discussed the pros and cons of each suggestion said what we would prefer (or shouted: “I vote tomato soup!!!” at the top of our lungs).
The results were magnificent!
Dinner was decided, Counterpart wasn’t consulted because he wasn’t home at the time, I wasn’t overwhelmed, and everyone ate something for dinner without complaining (which is nothing short of a miracle).
Having a family meeting was a resounding success.
I wish I’d thought to just randomly call a family meeting with the children years ago. I had been under the impression that family meetings needed to be planned for and have agendas and such, but with executive functioning issues, I struggle with planning things like that. So family meetings never happened more than once or twice a year despite me wanting to hold them regularly for over a decade now.
I foresee spontaneous crowd-sourcing from my children becoming a vital tool for me in “How do I manage to be a responsible Autistic adult and parent.”
Bonus: it encourages my children to develop better executive functioning skills and practice those skills themselves. This is important because several of them are also Autistic and/or ADHD, so executive functioning is likely to be an issue for most of them as well.