As a parent I want to protect my children. I want to shield them from hatred and cruelty and the kind of rage that leads people to abandon their principles in favor of power. I want them to make mistakes, dust themselves off, learn from them and not be crushed by them. I want to protect them from self-hatred. I want to protect them from pain. I don’t want them to suffer.
I want them to flourish. I want them to know happiness, and the beauty of falling in love. I want them to know the immeasurable joy friendship brings. I want them to feel that indescribably delicious sensation of doing something for another human being, not because it’s expected, or because they’ve been asked to, or because they will be thanked or appreciated, or because they expect anything in return, but because it’s “right” to do so. I want them to understand, truly understand what it feels like to believe in themselves, to feel good about who they are and what they can accomplish in this life. And I want them to realize the connection between giving and generosity and having self-respect.
I want them to have options in life. I want them to have the space, energy and luxury to find the things that captivate them, and I want them to be able to follow those interests. I want them to know that when they are fearful, they will not be consumed by it. I want them to be secure enough to stand up for themselves, to push back, to say no when they see others doing things they disagree with. I want them to have that option. I want them to feel the joy of being consumed by an interest. I want them to know what it is like to be in this world and to feel safe, that wherever they are, they are not alone.
I want them to know they are loved and cherished. I want them to know they are unique and yet the same as everyone else. They are not superior, nor are the inferior, they are one of many, yet each has something special to contribute to mankind and this world. As a child, we used to go camping and my father would instruct us to pick up any trash we found. We would strenuously object. “Why do we have to pick up other people’s trash? I didn’t leave this garbage here!” And he would always say the same thing, “We leave a place better than we found it.”
This is what I want for my children.
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
One of Emma’s top five favorite IMAX movies is, Born to Be Wild about orphaned orangutans and elephants and the people who rescue and nurture them until they can go out on their own to live independently in the wild. It’s a beautiful film and during the watching of it, Emma did a running narrative, which was both amazing and insightful because the things she noticed and talked about were not necessarily the things I noticed. Her observations were all about identifying with the baby orphaned animals and not about the humans who have saved their lives. This is as it should be, it seems to me.
She was identifying with the small animals, whose lives are dependent upon the human adults to care for them, respect them, nurture them while they are still so vulnerable and young. I, however, identified with the adults who are feeding, caring for, giving bottles to, making comfortable sleeping areas for, while being careful to not “tame”, so they will one day be able to return to the wild. I was so relieved to see the human caretakers encouraging the babies to build their innate skills by taking them to places where they could strengthen and build their climbing abilities and offering them materials to make nests or giving them the opportunity to interact with older orphans who would soon be venturing out on their own.
It was impossible for me, as a parent, to view this movie and not see the connections to parenting. How we try hard to manage that balancing act of encouraging our children to do for themselves, only intervening when absolutely necessary, trying hard to not over identify, to honor and respect our children and not think of them as reflections of ourselves. Watch for their innate talents and foster and encourage them, join them in their interests instead of trying to foist our interests upon them. Respect them enough to allow them to make mistakes, encourage them to dare to dream big, and give them the opportunity to flourish without criticism, but with love and guidance. In the end, we all want that from each other. We all want to feel loved and to love. We all want to be seen and heard. We all want to feel we are approved of. We need that. Children, adults, living beings, we all want to feel we matter.
I don’t know about you, but there are definitely days when I lose sight of long-term goals. I become impatient. I forget to respect the process… whether it’s my own, my husband’s, a friend’s or either of my children’s. I just don’t. I want things to happen on MY time frame. I like when things happen in exactly the way I imagined they would, with the speed in which I hoped for. I LOVE when things happen even faster or in a way I couldn’t have imagined and end up even better than I thought. But when things meander along, taking their time, going at a pace far too slow for my liking I have trouble… My father used to say to me, “You want what you want, when you want it.” This was NOT meant as a compliment. He was right. I am impatient. I prefer when things I want to happen, happened yesterday.
I used to think I would become more patient with age, but if anything, growing older makes me even less patient as I’m more aware of my mortality and that there really is an “end” to all of this, or I should say an end to me(gasp!) and therefore I have to hurry if I’m going to get everything I want done, finished. You know, things like changing the way people perceive autism, changing the way society treats people with disabilities, changing how our education system works… little stuff like that… *Big grin.
So when I’m hit with a wave of impatience, when I am most definitely NOT respecting the process, whatever and whomever that may apply to, I must remind myself of my tendency toward impatience and that I do not control much of what happens in this world. Everyone can let out their breath now; I know that was something most of you were concerned about. *Said with a big smile and a generous dollop of sarcasm.
Respect… this is something I think about a great deal. My daughter’s life is no less worthy of respect than my own. Respecting her means, listening to her, finding out how best to communicate with her, I have to respect the way she learns, the best ways for her to express herself in any given situation, the way she takes in information, the time she needs to move from one thing to the next, the clear instructions she needs so she can do what is being asked and honoring her as a human being who deserves to be treated with dignity.
Musings of an Aspie wrote a post the other day entitled, (Not) a Little Slow. It’s a terrific post, one I wish was part of a “Welcome To The Tribe – Things You Should Know Handout”. I wish this handout existed for all of us when we receive an autism diagnosis, whether for ourselves or our children. Actually this imaginary handout should be made available to every human being on this planet. If we treated all humans with the kind of generosity, respect and civility practiced at Autism conferences where Autistic people are not only in attendance, but are largely responsible for the creation of the programming and planning, this world would be a better place.
Em & Laura on the subway