Thursday, August 15, 2013

Autism Answer: Our Children Choose what they Learn.

I remember it clearly. Sixteen long years ago I was breastfeeding my baby, and watching my oldest son play with an upside-down chair, spoons and a ruined plastic slinky. He was making up some game and chattering happily to himself when suddenly I was hit with a fear that felt heavy in my chest. My son, whom I love, teach, wonder about, protect and play with, is completely his own person. I know that sounds silly, but for the twenty-two year old me it was an honest-to-goodness new realization. 

The epiphany and complete understanding that I could never get inside his head and know his thoughts, that I could never be certain that he learned the lessons I was teaching the way I meant for them to be learned, slapped me in the heart and had me reeling for days. When I finally chatted with my mom about it she helped me see it for the beauty that it is, while also revealing the importance of taking on the responsibility of truly teaching by example.

I learned to see the beauty in knowing that my boys (of which there are now four) were in complete control of their own thoughts and beliefs. For my autistic kids, and the one with Irlene Syndrome, and the one with 'classic laziness'--tee hee!--there was absolutely no way I could even begin to experience the world the way they did (well... maybe the classically lazy one!) and so how could I expect to tell them precisely how to navigate it? I couldn't. But there was so much I could do, and it was much more fantastic once I learned to be comfortable with it!!

I could watch them closely and learn their motivators. I could play with them intentionally to help them with useful life-skills, while asking questions and discovering the world as they perceived it! I could gather suggestions and corral potentially life changing opportunities without feeling it is my job to get it right in the end, but rather their job. And so--biggest challenge but most fantastic of all!--I had to learn to do each and every one of these things for myself so that they would see how it's done and accept my encouragements as valid along the way!

Admittedly, there are still many moments when I wish I could just crawl inside their heads to hear how they think and know what I still need to do to teach them or help them. Especially now that they are wildly moody teenagers! However, there is something so fascinating and eye opening about not being responsible for who my children become, but rather being an important player in encouraging them to become the men they feel good being. 

For me this learning started out as very scary, but became something wonderful. It gave me the encouragement I needed to take care of myself in important ways so that I could ask it of my children, and so that I would have the experience to help them know how. Also, it helped me to become a habitual believer in my children's abilities to figure life out, which helped them to believe it too. 

It's such a wild beast, this parenting thing! You're responsible, but you're not. You're the expert, but you're not. You love them, so you let them leave. 

Thank-goodness it's also filled with these fabulous lessons and sensational snuggles!!

Hugs, smiles and love!!