Diagnosed and Mourning
Many parents go through a mourning phase after their child has been diagnosed with autism. There are many reasons for this and one of those reasons is that they know that their child won’t have the life they had envisioned for them. The ideas of reaching regular milestones, going on regular vacations together, and seeing their child naturally and easily make friends might get set aside. These feelings are normal and understandable.
I was lucky enough to have a different reaction to my son’s diagnosis. My reaction was relief. I was just so happy to have an answer to why he was having so many melt downs and why he was hitting his head and screaming all the time. With a diagnosis I knew we could get more answers and help to make my son’s life hopefully happier.
But to the parents I come across on some of my Facebook support groups I tell them that their child hasn’t changed. Their child is still the same little person and their child still loves them. The only thing that has changed is that they can now get help since they got a diagnosis and a label.
Learning as we Go
As the years have passed I have come to terms with many aspects of autism, including how raising my children is going to be different than how I had imagined… I mean every parent comes across personality clashes with their kids I’m sure. One dad may have always imagined their kid would play high school football like they did and then they find themselves sitting at every school play. Or I have some friends from high school who met in marching band and I would guess they assumed their littles would share the same level of interest in instruments as them, but their oldest daughter is big into sports and loves playing and competing in football with the guys.
But my husband and I still get curve balls thrown at us all the time. We’ve learned that personalities are going to be different, interests are going to be different, and food choices will be flipped upside down. But the thing that always seems to catch us off guard every time is family traditions.
These are a bigger part of who we are then I think many of us realize. When I think of traditions my mind goes straight to holidays. Who they were spent with, what food was made, and how things were done. Turkey vs. ham, deviled eggs vs. green bean casserole, Christmas Eve pjs vs. caroling, etc.
But it’s the smaller things like maybe your mom always bought crest brand toothpaste so you do too, or your dad always sprinkled sugar on his cereal, so doesn’t everyone? I’m going to be honest when I say, I didn’t realize how many things are classified as family traditions that I just assumed my kids would do too, until they didn’t. And I’m learning it doesn’t have to be the same as when I was a kid and everything will be ok.
Some things that change are not even a big deal. My kids don’t love coloring by the Christmas tree? I can except that. My kids don’t love dipping graham crackers in milk? Cool, more for me! But learning these things can still be surprising and a bit disappointing at times. Here are a few times our family traditions got tossed out of our box and pretty much got ran over.
When I was growing up getting a bike was a big deal. Bikes weren’t like shoes, when you grow out of them it’s necessary to get the next size up. No, bikes were special and they were given to us for our birthdays. It was special, on my birthday my parents would take me to Toys R Us and I could pick any bike and I even got to ride it out of the store. Needless to say I had an idea of how I would give my kids bikes. Boy was I wrong.
My boys were 6 and 4 when we talked about getting them their first bicycles. For starters my boys weren’t even half excited about getting a bike, then they couldn’t figure out how to use one, and mr. L didn’t have the body strength to even move the one he was curious about. And the kicker was it was a few weeks before anyone’s birthday.
I had brought the boys to the store to look at many things, but when it was time to go both kids had meltdowns about leaving the bicycles. I ended up buying both bikes without my husband, on a regular day, and mr. C cried in the car afterwards because I had got the wrong bike, despite the fact that he had walked his bike to the register. It was chaotic, stressful, confusing, loud and overwhelming. It was not magical.
My husband and I planned on going to church as often as raising kids permitted, but we assumed that meant close to every week. Over the 8 years of raising our little ones we have faced meltdowns, learning about sound cancelling headphones, figuring out anxieties, teaching little peers and older church members about being patient and what inclusion means, RSV, germs, and everything in between. We didn’t see our current situation coming down to going once or twice a month if we’re lucky.
And just recently my husband faced autism changing his holiday plans. Michael had planned on sharing time with our 3 kids while watching, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”.
Movies are a big part of the holidays for Michael. When he thinks about Halloween it includes, “The Nightmare before Christmas” and Charlie Brown. But this year after battling snow to go trick or treating, my husband ended up sitting at the kitchen table with me, trying to hide his glum mood, eating taco chili, while our children watched Mater shorts on YouTube, that mr. L requested/ insisted on instead.
Not a Big Deal
At the end of the day changing traditions to meet our family’s needs is not a big deal. Having happy, stress free children is more important then enforcing traditions for traditions sake that don’t fit our circumstances.
Raising a family with autism in it isn’t like anything I imagined, but it has been so overwhelmingly worth it. I get to see the world in new ways every day and it is an adventure.
So what if my kids don’t like crest toothpaste, it’s been 9 years since I married my husband, I’m sure I’ll convince him to like it eventually 😜
What’s a tradition you grew up with that your kid’s just don’t like? What’s a new thing your family does that you surprisingly enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.
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