Parents in general believe they should do a lot of things with and for their kids. We do this because we are convinced that this is the expectation society and others have for us. But so often we buy into these shoulds even though they are so outside the reality in which we and our special needs children live.
Our kids need to be allowed to develop according to their own schedule. They should not have to conform to someone else’s. But yet if they don’t, others may judge them as unworthy of a place in ‘normal’ society and unable to be ‘productive contributors’ in it, whatever that’s supposed to mean.
This is the pressure we live around. But notice I didn’t say we had to live with it or accept it.
This is a game we cannot win. This is a game we should never play.
Autism Parenthood must never be governed by any outside parent-should. Every child, parent, and family is different. You and I and our kids are unique.
I’m tired of being told we aren’t good enough parents. I’m tired of begging for resources to help my son. I’m tired of people telling us that our kids don’t deserve what ‘normal’ kids should get. That to me is pure and complete blasphemy against everything it means to be human. We shouldn’t have to fight this, but I will if that’s what it takes.
But we can start to put aside right now all the petty shoulds that others think we are supposed to follow. We can put aside the ideas that, for example, our kids are supposed to not have a hard time in stores, not be finicky eaters, not be silent or not respond with a script whenever spoken to, not be scared to death in public bathrooms, or not struggle with ‘normal’ work.
We should be better parents, they think. They think we should discipline our kids better or talk to them more. They believe that this is all somehow our fault. And I am sick of people telling us what we should and should not do.
We can invite these people to take their shoulds and stick them somewhere. We can say nothing and then ignore them. Regardless, we don’t need these in our lives anymore.
Giving up all these petty shoulds other people pile on us frees us up for the shoulds that do matter. These shoulds are the principles that inform our mission to transform society into a better place for our children.
A person’s worth should not have anything to do with their ‘practical contribution to society.’ Their worth should be inherent simply because they are a person of infinite worth just as they are.
A person should not have to fit into the ‘norms’ of society in order to have a place in it. People on the edges and boundaries of that society should be celebrated for all they do have to offer our world.
A young person should not have to prove they are worthy of a free, appropriate public education just because they aren’t in ‘regular’ classes. All young people should have the right to such an education regardless.
A person should not be judged if they do not fit into an expected timetable or mold for development. A person should be allowed to develop in their own time in a way that is consistent with who they are and who they will become.
A person should not be judged just because someone doesn’t understand them. They should be celebrated along with everyone else, because diversity is what makes humankind amazing.
I know it’s hard to push all of society’s shoulds aside. It’s a long-term practice. Whenever you feel that outside pressure, take a moment, breathe in, and breathe that pressure out and away. Repeat. Maybe this only helps a tiny bit, but bit by bit will make a difference.
Time, attention, and energy are too precious for us. We can’t waste them on opinions that don’t matter. They don’t have your child’s best interests at heart anyway; you do.
Look at your child and instead ask, “What should I do next for them? What about after that?” Think about their present and future. Then act from love, not pressure. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. When done from love rather than someone else’s should, amazing things can happen.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa