Sunday, 22 May 2011
Last week, my 24 year old son Matthew and I went on a trip to Chicago, a trip that he had been saving for for quite some time. As we were packing the day before, I remembered a passage from John Elder Robison's book Be Different that I thought would help Matthew maximize his travel experience:
"I've learned that other people have certain expectations for how I should look and act. If I don't meet their expectations, especially during a first impression, they won't be friends with me, work with me, or even answer my questions. The onus is on me to act as expected and make a good impression."
I poked my head into Matthew's room and offered to help him pack.
"You look so handsome in this ," I said, holding up a light blue polo shirt that he'd worn just once, "and it would look nice with these khaki pants."
"Those are church clothes," he said, "besides, I'm all done packing."
In his suitcase was an assortment of plaid shorts, plaid shirts, white socks and a pair of work boots.
"You could take some shoes instead of the boots," I suggested, "and maybe some solid color shirts to go with plaid shorts. Sometimes too much plaid looks funny."
"But I look good in plaid!" Matthew said, clearly offended by my interference "and I shined my boots especially for this trip so I would look cool." He started pacing around his room anxiously and I knew I had to back off. This was no time for a fashion consult.
"You are going to look great in Chicago," I said. "Wow, those boots look nice."
When you're a parent, you become programmed to make the most of teachable moments from the very beginning. "Look! there is a red light! Read means stop." "We don't want to hit our friends, even if they take our toys. See how that makes our friends feel?"
"No cookies until you eat all of your broccoli..."
Sometimes you just have to let things slide, and when you have a child with autism, there are battles that just aren't worth fighting. I asked parents on my Facebook what they let slide:
1)I refuse to fight about clothes. My boy can wear what he wants and what "feels" right for him.
2)It is not worth fighting your child when they don't want to come in from the rain as long as the weather is warm. They will come in when they realize they are getting all wet and don't like it.
3) I'm done telling him he can't carry hinges and old door knobs around :)
4)We no longer fight over food. He eats about 5 things and that's what he eats. I can't fight that battle all day every day.
5)Tying shoes. My aspie just can't get it and I don't worry about it. Not a battle I choose to fight.
6)Anything that isn't life threatening.
7)I know many people won't agree with me, but we do not fight over potty training any more. My son is seven years old, nonverbal, and does not "get" potty training. We adopted him last year from foster care and no one had worked with him on much of anything throughout his tragic little life.
8)That he still watches Barney at 18! I wish he were interested in something more typical/appropriate, but typical and appropriate for an 18 year old boy might be something MUCH worse than Barney.
I know, it all sounds just a little discouraging, but I have good news. Sometimes when you back off, things work themselves out. When Matthew was a child, he refused to eat vegetables until he discovered ratatouille at age 11, and couldn't get enough. He was obsessed with airports for years and visiting them wore me out, and then one day he told me he was "done" with airports.
As for the shiny work boots on our trip to Chicago--they looked just fine.
Which battles do you think are not worth fighting?