Occasionally I’m asked what I think about being the parent of an autistic son. Over the years (about 16 now) I’ve had the chance to give it some thought, and I have to say that although my opinions on quite a few things related to autism have evolved – and some have outright changed – there is one thing that I’ve always believed:
Parenting an autistic child is, first and foremost, nothing more – and nothing less – than parenting a child. Yes it is different, and sometimes (OK, much of the time) more difficult than being the parent of a “normal” child, but that doesn’t change the fundamental nature of being a parent.
Parenting is hard. We try and try and try to get our kids to do something, understand something, say something. They go for a long time, apparently ignoring (avoiding?) all of our best attempts. Then, all of a sudden, when we aren’t really looking (or when we’ve kind of given up), they do it, understand it, say it.
At those moments we feel good, not just for our kids and their accomplishments but for ourselves. Sometimes it is hard to put in the long hours, day after day, never quite knowing if it will pay off or not. This is especially true for the parents of autistic kids. But what can you do?
The following quote from George Leonard’s The Way of Aikido applies as much to parenting as it does to any other endeavor to which we apply ourselves.
What we call “mastery” can be defined as that mysterious process through which what is at first difficult or even impossible becomes easy and pleasurable through diligent, patient, long-term practice. Most learning occurs while we are on the plateau, when it seems we are making no progress at all. The spurt upward towards mastery merely marks the moment when the results of your training “clicks in.”
To learn anything significant…you must be willing to spend most of your time on the plateau. [T]o join the on the path of mastery, it’s best to love the plateau, to take delight in regular practice not just for the extrinsic rewards it brings, but for its own sake.
Another way of looking at it comes from a saying I heard a while back:
A truly happy person enjoys the scenery on a detour.
How’s the scenery where you’re at?