I'll admit it: I haven't enjoyed parenting much lately. I think being a parent is hard enough under typical circumstances, but add in the challenges that come with ASD, and it can be completely maddening. Simon has been very inflexible about everything lately, over things that most kids would consider unimportant, and it's hard to keep a rational head and not react emotionally.
But there have been a couple of instances in the last few days where I've seen him quietly playing with toys in much the same way that I did as a young child. He lets himself just be lost in his imagination and play. He creates scenarios in his head, and also observes the mechanical nature of certain toys (in a somewhat obsessive way, but again, I understand him completely). There's a beautiful simplicity in seeing him play like this. It wasn't that long ago that he couldn't use the bathroom on his own. The challenges disappear, if only temporarily, when I see him like this.
Don't get me wrong, I love that he's also taking to certain academics in surprising ways. His online coursework through school (yes, that's actually a thing, and in kindergarten) is something he is totally into, voluntarily, and we're not even half-way through the year and already he's at the first grade level. That's amazing. Ironically, the same challenges that come with ASD may also give him this edge.
Still, it's that play time that strikes me as so important. Intrinsic motivation is the only kind that matters to kids, and they need the time to explore the things that interest them the most. I'm not a developmental expert, but I do understand the foundation that is laid by having some amount of freedom learn what they want to learn. It runs so contrary to the odd private school mentality that pushes for over-achievement at an age where it's arguably developmentally in appropriate to be pushing kids. No recess or phys ed? That can't be constructive.
As a parent, one that feels emotionally drained entirely too often, seeing that play time in action is such a relief. It makes me smile. Having an only child may not be entirely ideal, but when he does have his alone time, I love seeing how engaged he can be. It's that moment where you can think, "Yeah, we made that." They're wonderful moments.