Friday, June 11, 2010

uniqueness and conscious parenting


All of my life I've been trying to stimulate the uniqueness of myself and my children.

Ofcourse it's also important to learn how to fit in, adapt and be happy to be part of a larger social entity.
To feel at ease when people look at you, knowing you look like others and people value you for who you are.
Belonging to a group means sharing in their rules and regulations, their opinions and maybe even future goals (like at school).
Internalising moral standards, showing age relevant behaviour, developing non verbal behaviour and all those defining characteristics of a person is better be done in a group, like a family, a group of trusted friends and a class (when standards are set properly).

But a person is more than part of a general concensus, the single grain of sand on a beach, or a clone of those around him or her.

We all have an aspect of uniqueness which defines our identity too, which gives us a sense of self, enables us to find out which our talents are and develop them.

Because of the autistic children in our family I've realised how important it is to accept the uniqueness in ourselves, to be at ease with it, and to find growth in that uniqueness too.

It's the double task a parent has, but due to the way society deals with people who are unique, many parents focus completely on the common qualities of their children.

It's quite understandable, as this is a time where the masses streamline the processes in society. In a way they facilitate the growth of society.
Everyone goes to work or school in the morning, enabling factories to function at full potential and giving teachers the chance to teach at the benefit of most.
Optimal use of energy. When all noses move the same way there's no disruption of movement.

Sometimes it's even forgotten that the uniqueness of people make life worthwhile. The singers, actors and musicians, the designers of furniture and clothes, those who want to find a cure for cancer, develop toys... numourous people who dare to think outside the prescribed lines help us to develop our own identity, because they make us think, consider if we like something or not, or even make us vent opinions this describing the boundaries of what we want or not.

I think it's a true mature person who's able to see the ordinary and the uniqueness in himself and can embrace that diversity in others too.

During the years I've found one huge obstacle though, one huge issue that makes me unhappy because of that diversity of characteristics which define my identity: I don't fit in theories.

My mother taught me that when I had small children my house should be tiptop when my husband arrived from work, so he could sit down, read a paper while I was preparing our dinner.
When he still worked in town he arrived at home at the time she mentioned, but half of the meal was already prepared in the morning or early afternoon, and the children were playing all over the place, enjoying themselves to bits. I thought a father should enjoy his children, see how they played and preferably engage in playing with them too.

I had joy finding my way through motherhood, using my creativity to guide them and teach them.
My children hardly ever moaned when they had to go to bed, wouldn't try to find excuses to stay up late, just because they were aware of their own tiredness, and they knew that sleeping would make them more energetic to play the next day.
Oh, don't think they didn't test their boundaries. They did.
But with 6 small unique creatures I needed to chose my battles and invent ways to get things done without too much trouble.

So at the famous age of two when the word "no" seemed to be the only word in their vocabulary, I would tell them that I didn't expect them to go with me, which resulted in them eagerly telling me they would, accepting shoes, coats and the whole toodoo and going with me without problems.
Their souls weren't scratched, nor was mine.
I allowed them to say "no" plenty of times, chosing their battles, but I guided them towards the battleground, where they could say "No!!" to an apple and eat a banana and an orange instead. I though it important they went through that stage of development the same way as other children, but in a way that it wouldn't suck away all my energy and I would end up near half dead when they would finally be asleep.

Sometimes mothers of autistic children ask me how I can live a life with 4 autistic/unique boys and two normal/unique girls, dealing with all their difficulties like dyslectia, schoolproblems and all the other things.
My advice always is:
  • know what their stage of development asks from them and you.
    Investing in reading about that and talking with other parents pays off very well.
  • Set standards.
    Now puberty has gained access in the house there are rules: no smoking, no drugs, no alcohol, school first, healthy eating too. To mention a few. But also: when you're angry sit down and ask yourself why and if it's worth it to pour your emotions all over the place.
  • Move the battlegrounds to places that fit you. I'm not going to accept to be pulled in an argument about the beaviour of someone else, but I'm OK to discuss the limits I'm setting to buying books and hobbymaterials.
  • Setting limits and saying "no" is part of my job as a mom, as is being nice and being a role model. Don't be caught in the "no's" or in being a boss, but enjoy being able to guide a human being towards adulthood. Parenting is fun, is dedication and is being responsible. When you do it well, you'll enjoy personal growth too and you'll get to know yourself better.
    When you perceive parenting that way it's not a burden that exhausts you, but an interactive joy which gives you energy.
  • When dealing with autism, know your child and set goals in a realistic way. Enjoy the small steps forward and forget the fallbacks. When you focus on the positive you won't see parenting as a burden, but as a journey of small expectations.
    Aren't the flowers beside the road far more interesting than the holes in the middle of the road?
  • Take time to be in the centre of yourself, to be yourself, to feel the peace inside yourself, or whatever words you use to experience some rest. Stay the person you are and don't forget that you're a developing person too. Each stage of development of your child is a new stage in your development too.
    Parenting is a real journey and it's fun, even though some times can be hard.
One of the main problems I face as a parent are the projections of other people on our family.
The comments of how difficult a life I have, are plenty.
"I couldn't cope", is what people say.
Well, how do you know when you're not experiencing it in real life? I thought I couldn't cope too, but I can.
It's not that I don't take matters seriously, it's that I've learned where the forces are which move us all in a positive way.
We love each other, we care for each other, we enjoy it when something positive happens to someone.
This outweights everything else.


So those who want to evaluate our family and want to find fault in my mothering: don't project your ideas into our situation, don't use theories, because there are no systemtheories for our family.
But accept that we're as strong as we are and enjoy seeing that.
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