Ive been realizing something over the last few months. A lot of my parenting journey has been about letting go of my expectations and paying attention to my kids’ needs. Reading that sentence back to myself makes it sound simple, like it shouldn’t take years and years to figure out. Like I shouldn’t have to learn it again and again. But (as people say) if I believe that, I’m should-ing myself.
As someone who loves nothing more than to hang out with my girl friends, when I had my first baby I imagined many meet-ups with mom friends: long lunches, lingering afternoons at the park, casual coffees. I envisioned nothing but time to connect with other women in similar stages of parenting. I basically thought I was getting an accessory that could be carried on my hip as I went where I pleased. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I laugh in the face of 7 years ago me! But I also graciously forgive myself because I didn’t know what I didn’t know and that’s not anyone’s fault its just the truth. I hadn’t thought about the fact that I was getting a person – someone with needs and wants and strengths and weaknesses that might be different than my own. I have 2 children who are as different as apples🍏 and eggplants🍆 and they came into the world that way. Same parents, same womb, same environment, and basically same nothing else. And no matter what I do I cannot convince either of them to just go along with whatever I want to do or to sit quietly on all those lunches, coffees, and meet-ups I envisioned (though one is more easily swayed than the other). They aren’t little robots who just follow me around and do as I program them to, but some days, i sure wish they were. Compromise is hard work, man! Negotiating with kids is no joke. When I am successful I feel like I could be a hostage negotiator and when I am not I feel defeated and want to throw a tantrum: “I don’t WANT to watch Pokemon anymore! I want to watch MY show!” Everyone’s needs and wants have to be balanced and I am like that blind Lady Justice statue trying my darndest to weigh each need against another.
I first started learning this lesson when E was 5 or 6 months old. Up until then my plan had been pretty successful, I just threw that kid in the stroller and went where I wanted. Until one day, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I walked for 5 hours trying to get my son to nap and we were both exhausted. He didn’t want to traipse all over the city discovering new neighbourhoods as I did, he wanted to nap in his bed and have a steady routine. Yep, a 5 month old said all that to me, he’s very smart, as many ASD kids are. A more recent example of this tension is that after school many of the families from school go to a local playground. The kids play (mostly) happily while the parents chat and dole out snacks. On sunny days some families are there for hours. I would love nothing more than to sit chatting while the children play, but we tried this scene and my son couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t understand why he was getting in fights and yelling rude words and begging to go home when the other children seemed so happy to be playing with friends. It’s taken me 1.5 years to figure out (and for my son to articulate) that this type of interaction is too overwhelming for him after a full day of school. My beautiful, sensitive, socially awkward love has already been asked to obey by social norms and class rules for 6 hours and at the end of it he’s tired. If I push him to go to the park he will act out because his social cup is drained. He wants to go home and zone out. Fair enough. I still gaze longingly at the park as we pass it on the way home, but at least I know I’m making the right choice for my boy.
This is a lesson I don’t think i will ever really get, but will learn again and again for the rest of my life. A voice in my head saying “just let it go, Elsa, let it go.”