Striking a Balance Between Our Kids On and Off the Autism Spectrum
There’s a saying “Behind every great kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she is screwing it up.” As a mom of two great kids, I identify well with it, and I’m sure that the saying wouldn’t be floating around in various forms if many others didn’t identify with it, too. As moms we constantly wonder if we are doing right by our kiddos. Are we making the right choices? Are we leading by example? Are we striking a balance between our kids on and off the spectrum?
“Balance.” Now there’s a word that deserves thought and attention. I think that every mom, whether she has kids with special needs or not, spends a lot of time trying to balance the demands and responsibilities of life. Between kids, spouses, work, and home, we spend much of our time attending to others’ needs rather than our own. So how do we do it? How do we find the balance? How do we maintain our sanity?
Speaking for myself and for my journey, this is what I know. I know that maintaining balance and sanity is no easy feat, but my hope is that I’m not screwing up. So, as someone who is need of feedback, I went straight to the one person who could give me the information I desired about balancing between my kids – Joey, our non-spectrum son.
A few weeks ago, Vince and I sat Joey down to discuss whether or not he felt like he was getting his fair share of attention. This was uncomfortable for him, and he didn’t really want to answer the question. I knew he didn’t want to say the “wrong” thing because that would be upsetting but at the same time, he didn’t want to lie. We told him to be honest with us. If he felt that he was getting enough attention, then, at the very least, we could continue doing what we were doing. However, if he felt that he wasn’t getting his fair share, then obviously Vince and I needed to step back and reevaluate our parenting methods. We would need to figure out how we can strike a better balance between him and Debbie. We promised Joey that whatever his answer was we weren’t going to be angry. We reassured him that he has a voice and that it is important to us that he uses it appropriately.
Joey said that he felt like he receives enough attention. He also recognized that due to Debbie’s autism, her needs are different from his and that sometimes it is more about her than him but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we love him and we support him in all his endeavors.
Joey is only fourteen, yet he demonstrates a level of maturity that is well beyond his age. Vince and I were floored and pleased by his answer. One, we are not screwing it up, and two, Joey is ultimately happy and on the right course in life. But that still leaves the question, “How do we find the balance?”
Here’s the thing. No matter who you are, no matter what road you are traveling, you have to maintain some sort of balance in your life, otherwise, you are bound to lose your mind. While autism has presented challenges to finding balance, most of the time it has been a pothole in the road, and I have learned to navigate around it.
Joey and Debbie have very different interests. Joey is an artist. He draws, in addition to editing and producing videos. Debbie is a musician. She is a self-taught pianist. When the kids were younger, when Joey went to his art classes, Debbie and I hung out some place else. When Debbie had music therapy, Joey and I sat in the waiting room together. When Debbie has a concert at school we all go to support her.
Nowadays, when Joey has a concert at school, I make arrangements for someone to hang out with Debbie in the vestibule of the auditorium. The clapping and acoustics of the auditorium overwhelm her. If sitting outside the entrance helps her to be an active audience member, I’m all for it. I used to leave her at home with a babysitter, but I realized that if we expected Joey to support her, then she needed to support him as best as she could – not to mention the fact that we are a family and we do things together.
Of course, these are special occasions. What about day-to-day life?
Joey is at the age where he prefers to hole up in his room. Playing with action figures has given way to texting and hanging out with friends. I’m finding that our best conversations take place while driving in the car. Debbie, on the other hand, bounces from room to room, but many times she wants to roughhouse with either Vince or me. Because they are at different stages, the daily attention our children receive is different. One does not receive more or less than the other. Just different kinds and at different times.
So that, in a nutshell, is it. We find balance by giving each of our kids the attention they need at the level they need it. Sometimes one gets more attention than the other. But that’s okay, because ultimately it ends up evening out.
For right now, we are juggling life’s responsibilities and maintaining the delicate balance. I may need to be reminded about this posting next year when Joey is in high school and Debbie is in middle school and I am losing my sense of balance! :-)
I would love to hear from you. How do you juggle it all and maintain balance in your family? Let’s connect!
xoxoxo ~ Julie