This post was inspired by Raising Cubby: A Father and Son's Adventures with Asperger's, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives* by John Elder Robison. Parenting is a challenging job, but what challenges does a parent with Asperger's face? Join From Left to Write on March 12 as we discuss Raising Cubby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
Parenting is the toughest - and the best - gig I've ever had in my life.
One of the hardest parts of the early years of parenting for me (I'm in my twelfth year and counting now; #4 will be here any day) was realizing that just because a little child could talk and communicate fairly well doesn't mean that same child has the ability to comprehend, rationalize, and understand what's being communicated to them.
This isn't to say that those little people of mine weren't smart or naturally intuitive or lacking in comprehension skills; no, they were and still remain freakishly smart in different ways. This has more to do with my perceptions and viewpoints than their native abilities. It took me a while to grasp that just because a child can talk extremely well at a young age (and two of my three were early talkers who still just about wear.me.down with their gift of gab and debating skills) doesn't mean they can rationalize well.
And on the flip side, just because a child is a late talker - like my second one, who didn't say much of anything until he was three but could sing like a lark, drew perfect circles at eighteen months, and could patiently figure out any problem solving toy long after his frustrated older sister had thrown it across the room - doesn't mean that they are somehow lacking in rationalization skills. Luckily, he was my second and not my first and I'd already begun to see where my own viewpoints and perceptions on raising kids and the whole cultural fallacy of "normal development" might need a little tweaking...or need to simply be chucked out the window.
Those early years with my oldest taught me that sometimes as a parent, you just have to squelch that need to explain the WHY behind what you are asking them to do - or not to do, more often is the case - and just stick to the WHAT of your request. I learned that simple, straightforward answers that were concrete and based in some frame of reference that their 18 month old or 2 or 3 year old mind could grasp and/or recall were best. This made a world of difference to me when dealing with tantrums and timeouts.
Reading Raising Cubby by John Robison gave me a new appreciation for that time in my kiddo's lives and my own growth as a parent in understanding how best to deal with the, "Why, Mommy?" moments as well as the truly awful meltdown moments. Parenting is a tough enough gig; parenting a child that's on the spectrum while you yourself as a parent are on the spectrum (as John Robison and his son Cubby are, both diagnosed as Asperger's) looks like a herculean task until I consider that every parent brings their own unique viewpoint with them on the journey raising their child.
The viewpoints we bring to parenting, the way we process and order the world around us, our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have a great deal of influence on the decisions we make as parents in how to deal with our children. My own downfall when my oldest was just beginning to communicate came, ironically, from one of my strengths - communicating. I thought I could simply talk my way through to a sensible solution with her when she was in the throes of a toddler-sized nuclear meltdown; it didn't take too long to see that she wasn't there...not yet, at least.
But what I do see now is that all things - including and especially children (and us, as their parents) - are wired for growth and change. My chatty dynamos - who both required their fair share of timeouts related to their tendency to speak before thinking - are both amazing communicators who are learning (slowly, but learning) to measure their words and the impact of their words before blurting out exactly what's on their minds. My quiet man speaks up more for himself among the clamor of his noisy siblings and has a reputation both here at home and at school for one liner zingers that seemingly come out of nowhere and are spot on hilarious.
Parenting is a tough gig, yes, but one I wouldn't trade for anything. And the most amazing part of this journey has been not the depth of love I have for my kiddos (infinite and endless). The most surprising and wonderful part of being their mom has been experiencing how each one of them as individuals, and all three together, have changed me and my own viewpoints for the better.
*This post contains my Amazon affiliate link; clicking through that link helps me buy a fancy latte every six months or so - thanks.