Dear New Autism Mom,
If you were here at Joe Muggs, drinking coffee with me right now, I would tell you something that seems a bit silly and sometimes frivolous, but it is profoundly true: it's ok to have fun.
It's not only ok, but it's required. Non-negotiable.
Many parents grieve when they first find out about the diagnosis, and that is very much needed. Your parenting paradigm just had a major shift.
But at the same time, you can still have fun. You can enjoy your childs quirks.
When I first learned about my son's autism, I grieved intensely. I couldn't even look at him without bursting into tears. I was afraid of the future; terrified that the child I had would not be able to hold the life I had dreamed of for him.
I am guessing you can relate to this, too?
Another thing that I was grieving, was that I really did like my son's quirks. I loved the unusual expressions, the unprovoked laughter, the stims--they made me giggle and piqued my curiosity. I marveled at the raw display of emotions that reached level I rarely felt.
And you know, I learned I didn't need to grieve that part --or most of the other parts, either.
I could embrace it. I could enjoy him. I could engage in the different with him.
But many books and voices out there, will tell you that you need to "stomp out the autism", or that you must teach them how to behave so they look "normal". And you know what I have learned?
They already are normal. They are perfect just as they are. God made them the way they are, intentionally, and so I embrace that. I choose to see God's image in them.
And I choose to have fun with them.
I also choose to have fun without them.
It is hard work to be a special needs parent, especially when you have more than one special needs child. And although the cultural drive is to cure them: to never let them stim, to keep them engaged as often as possible, the truth is that God is the only one who can heal.
And sometimes, the person needing the healing is you and me, not them.
We can't do our part in helping our child if we don't do our part in helping ourselves.
It really isn't optional.
We often feel guilty when we have fun for ourselves, but we shouldn't. We need it. We need it for us, and we need it for our families.
So think back to the things you always wanted to try, or the things you used to love to do, and do that.
Schedule time and put it on the calendar--in ink. Make it a priority.
Make a mandatory appointment with yourself, and get out of the house, alone.
Do something YOU want to do, and then encourage your significant others to do the same. Make it a rhythm in your house.
Then you will be able to relax, to breathe again. You will be refreshed and you will find renewed joy in the hard work that awaits you when you return home.
And in case something a little more official is required to give yourself permission for fun, here is a prescription, just for you. Print as often as needed!