5 New Year's resolutions for an autism mom

Julie M Green

A new year is upon us. And though I've never been much for resolutions, like everyone I'm looking ahead, I want to do better.

My goals include the usual: exercising more and eating less (junk). But mostly I'm vowing to raise the bar as a mom to my 6-year-old autistic son.

I do the best I can, sure. But some days, my best falls short of good enough. My son is a tremendous kid. He deserves an equally tremendous -- at least most of the time -- mom. So in that spirit of self-improvement and self-awareness, I resolve to the following:

1. I will not force you to look me in the eye.
I will focus instead on ensuring that you are really listening to what I am saying, even if your eyes don't meet mine. I know how hard it is for you to look and listen at the same time, so when given the choice, I'd choose you hearing me every time.

2. I will not talk about you in the third person while you are in earshot.
You are not a baby. Nor are you a ghost. As you are old enough to understand more than we probably give you credit for, it follows that you deserve to be included in any conversation that concerns you. If it's a sensitive matter, or one with the potential to upset you, then your father and I should discuss the business behind closed doors.

3. I will cultivate an interest in your interests because connecting with you brings us closer.
OK, so I am no more interested in the Cyrillic alphabet than you are in Zumba or women's literature. However, I will make the effort to tap into your world because I'm interested in you. Your passion is contagious and inspiring. And who knows? Maybe it's not too late for this old dog to pick up a new linguistic trick...

4. I will have a "can do" attitude when it comes to your challenges.
On a tough day, it's easy to throw up our hands and despair about all the things you cannot do. On a tough day, the silver lining is so hard to see, no matter how we strain to see. Those are exactly the days when I need to pause, take one look over my shoulder and see just how far you've come. In the past six month, in the past year... You work so incredibly hard, and you are growing every day. I will not minimize or trivialize the tasks that are difficult for you (as long as you promise not to laugh at how hard learning Russian is for me!)

5. I will not apologize for or justify your behaviour to strangers, or anyone else for that matter.
I will instead shrug my shoulders, smile enigmatically, and hope that they'll leave as charmed by your quirks as I (mostly) am. Haters gonna hate no matter what this mama says. If necessary, I can educate. I can provide information to those whose world has never been touched by autism. But as your mother, I refuse to apologize or feel anything resembling guilt or shame. Those who don't see you for who you are don't deserve my time -- or yours.

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