Well, it happened again. I was sideswiped by the reality bug. Sometimes special needs parenting isn’t fun. Even though I love my son more than life itself, I have been so frustrated and disappointed. I spend days walking on eggshells while I try to keep his life as stable as possible, trying super hard to avoid the raging meltdowns that are inevitable.
As he gets older, the meltdowns get louder and the fixations get harder to diffuse. He demands things that we can’t possibly give him. This week alone, he wanted to buy over a thousand dollars in robot vacuums because he was “dying” to get them.
I just keep saying no, and it is getting so exhausting because his persistence only seems to increase with each day. On the upside, there is a lot getting done around our house as my son tries to earn the thousand dollars he wants to spend with extra chores. It would be comical if it weren’t so heartbreaking.
Face to Face
Then tonight there was a Face to Face with Elder Oaks and his wife. The room was full of young women and young men near my son’s age. They were quiet and respectful and ambitious in their goals. As I desperately tried to get my son to sit through more than 15 minutes of the broadcast, I was suddenly hit with a crushing realization.
I realized my son won’t be like those kids are. He may never be the guy I see that he has the potential to be. He chose not to watch. And he may choose not to work on goals like the Church is encouraging us all to do. I sat there sadly enjoying the fireside, crying quietly as I saw the light and strength in those youth.
It was at that moment that Elder Oaks spoke directly to me. He said that we are all in different places. We all learn at different paces. Some of us need longer than others to become who we will become. He encouraged us all to be patient and not to push. That we must let the youth lead and take a step back to let them grow.
For a moment, I could see myself through my son’s eyes. I saw that I had been pushing him to do things he wasn’t ready for. And if I continued, I would make him resent me and maybe even the Church. That is the last thing I ever want.
Change Your Perspective, Change the World
I have worked for so long to help my son feel safe and loved, and to gain a relationship with God, and I hadn’t realized that I was sabotaging that. I wanted so much for him to be the kid I expected him to be when I dreamed of motherhood. I wasn’t accepting and enjoying who he is.
This special needs parenting thing isn’t for the faint of heart. It is constantly stretching me and making me grow in ways I never expected. But I have so much joy as the Lord keeps patiently instructing me. One day my son will be the majestic man I see in my mind’s eye. He will simply be taking a different path than I expected.
As I follow Elder Oak’s counsel and relax and let my son lead, I will have so much less stress in my life. Because let’s be honest — nothing is harder than trying to force anyone into something they don’t want to, or can’t, do. And instead of trying to keep my son away from his obsessions, maybe I can use them to help him learn and reach his goals. I sure hope the Lord keeps guiding me. Because I went from despair to peace in just a moment as God answered a prayer I couldn’t speak.
You’ve Got This!
I know God is just as aware of your needs and your family’s needs as He is of mine. Parenting is the HARDEST thing I have ever done. But the blessings keep coming — as long as I keep trying. I know the Lord will do the same for you as you keep trying.
I feel this kinship with other special needs parents, with you. And after my depressing night got miraculously turned around, I want to encourage you too. This is hard. And sometimes sad. But our kids are amazing people! We just have to let them grow into their true selves. And maybe get out of their way.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.