A year of parenting challenge

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 20, 2019, 11:21 PM | comments: 0

The Christmas break started today for Simon, so naturally we'll let him stay up later since he doesn't have to get up at the ass-crack of dawn. Tonight I put him down, and I think I was next to him for three minutes before he crashed. In some strange way, it feels even better when he falls asleep and you don't get to tell him goodnight and I love you. That peacefulness is a joyous occasion.

As I mentioned before, I've been enduring a fair amount of anxiety around parenting. As any parent would, you want to help him be happy and successful, but at the same time, you don't want to protect him so much that he'll grow up without the coping and adaptation skills that will never develop in adversity. This is even harder when you throw ASD and ADHD in the mix, because this different wiring means you often chase the wrong conclusions when reacting to the challenge of the day. The striking feeling of defeat isn't about the moment, it's about the series of moments and the long-term outcomes they may lead to. That's certainly where my anxiety comes from.

For example, the neighbor kids have what apparently is an epic tree swing. Simon has had a number of full-on meltdowns about getting a turn on this swing. At first glance, you kind of expect that maybe the kids are just being dicks, because that's what kids do. You don't want to come to his rescue, because he needs to learn to navigate those social contracts for himself. But then you learn that maybe he just has unrealistic expectations about shared time on the swing, and he's incessantly ringing the parent's doorbell in meltdown mode until someone answers. So then you're dealing with his expectations and the fact that your neighbors, as decent people as they are, have to deal with your child in a way that frankly they shouldn't have to. It's not even clear what you should do at that point.

Homework is also difficult, and Diana takes the brunt of that. Mind you, at this school, he doesn't even have very much homework, and what he does have is stuff he could be doing in school. Part of the problem there is that the amphetamines wear off by the time school is over, so he simply can't focus after six hours of school. Mix in a lack of self-confidence, and our non-understanding of Common Core methods of teaching math, and you can imagine how that goes. The other problem that I've noticed is that the accommodations that he rightfully gets as part of his IEP give him an out and an entitlement where he knows he's not held accountable to creating work. All of this adds up to some difficult scenarios for all of us.

We've spent a ton of money on therapy the last few months, which I think is helping. My expectations are unrealistic, because therapy for me is focused and directed, getting the most out of my time, and you certainly can't expect a 9-year-old to operate like that. But we've had some good takeaways from that, where we can see progress that he's trying to identify the emotions he feels, but he might be identifying the wrong emotions. We can see that some things are rooted in self-esteem, others in his own anxiety. We definitely get that we have to work with him to get back to the "green zone" when he's uncomfortable or in an irreconcilable situation.

The surprises come in unexpected ways, too. The autism stereotype often centers on a lack of empathy (which is total bullshit, by the way... it's not a lack of empathy, it's an incapability to use it). Simon is greatly saddened when he sees the president calling people names on TV, or someone gets hurt in a movie. He came home from school today inconsolable because he's going to miss his teachers for the next two weeks. Also, he seems to struggle to compose a sentence for an essay synthesized from things he reads, but he can compose an email to his teachers like it's his job. It's a constant puzzle.

All things considered, he may drive my anxiety, but I'm also optimistic about his future. The social challenges of his childhood will undoubtedly affect him, but if he can plug into the things he cares about, he can overcome those things. I did, but it took a lot of soul searching in college and total disregard for the past in my adulthood to get there.


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