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Autism: On Parenting

22 Jul

All of my life I have wanted to be a mother. That may seem a strange thing for someone with autism, who has such challenges socially and with communication. Many people, on hearing of my autism or seeing how anxious I am most of the time, would not give me the chance to become a parent if they had a say in it.

I enjoy my time alone. It is easier to be alone, but that doesn’t always mean that I want to be. I think maybe that partially explains the desire I have had for children. It is difficult for me to get close to people. It is hard for me to let them see who I really am, and through experience I have found that just because I like to have someone near, doesn’t mean they will stay.

It was my thought that if I had children, I would be able to be myself around them. They would get used to who I am, and because they started so young, I wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone I was not. Maybe then I would have someone around who wanted to stay close to me. Children are good for accepting people for who they are – at least when they are young.

In a way, I found this to be the truth. My son knows me better than anyone else in the world. Even at the age of 19 I do not feel the need to pretend with him. Although he is different from me in many ways, and perhaps gets annoyed by my constant anxiety, and definitely from my desire for cleanliness, he accepts these as a part of me, and doesn’t try to change me.

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There are things about my personality, and even my autistic traits that make me really good in certain areas of parenting:

  • taking care of their physical needs – keeping them clean and fed
  • sticking to a routine that worked for them, as well as for me
  • planning activities for them (crafts, stories, baking, songs, outings)
  • getting them to their appointments
  • understanding and explaining their challenges
  • teaching them to read, helping them with their schoolwork.

While I was very good at doing some things for parenting, there were others that were a real challenge for me:

  • I am not good with anything unpredictable, and children usually are
  • I found loud and demanding behaviours overwhelming
  • I cannot function well, or think well without sleep
  • I am not good at dealing with conflict or rebellion
  • I don’t know how to help children through meltdowns, or with social issues (I am not good at getting myself through these things)
  • Aside from scheduled crafts and stories, I am not good at entertaining children, and do not like parties (although I do feel these are important to the children, and so I did try)
  • I struggle to see the perspective of other people – so taking advice from others was nearly impossible
  • People always seem to be watching and judging other parents, and I have strong performance anxiety. I cannot think well, and become controlling and rigid under such pressure. When I tried to express this to people, they watched closer, which made things so much harder.

I don’t know, really, why I have wanted children so bad. Perhaps that was my view on what it meant to be normal. During all of those years where my autism was undiagnosed, what I wanted more than anything was to be accepted as normal. That desire became an obsession when I found I wasn’t able to have more than my son, and grew even stronger with my failed adoption experience.

Maybe I wanted children so I could be close to someone – though I guess that isn’t really fair to the child. Maybe that is why people never wanted me to have a family. Maybe that is why I need to accept that I can’t have any more children, and let that desire go. Somehow.

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