Temple Grandin's mom said it best: "It takes a village to raise a child." At first glance I had no clue what she was saying, nor did I feel it appropriate for any parent to ask anyone to help raise their own child, with or without a disability. Yes, I became all judgy and righteous. Having had time to reflect on this quote while going on with my daily life has shed some truth on Eustacia Cutler's motto.
My life is a busy one: I parent six children, four of them have an autism diagnosis along with ADHD, and the fifth has been diagnosed with ADHD. We have swimming, hockey, bowling, skating, youth group, Sunday school, PACE kid gymboree and parent support group, autism therapy called "I Can Pretend," and then of course school. Having my children participate in these activities means they are exposed to other people, with their own unique characters. Of course I knew this prior to enrolling me children into their activities, but didn't really give much thought on how these other people would affect my children's lives. I just wanted my son and daughter to have fun bowling, my daughter to learn how to skate, my son loves hockey and I wanted to give him the gift of participation, my children to have a relationship with God, get an education and make some friends.
As parents, we don't really think about how adults in charge of whatever activity you enroll your child in, participate in RAISING our children. Especially when your child is on the autism spectrum. If you're fortunate enough to have your child invited to a birthday party (I know, how often does that happen, right? But if it did...), the parent would sit beside their child and stay for the duration of the party. Parents of children on the autism spectrum are very involved with their children. We are there to guide and correct as needed. We gradually back off to see if our child will contribute in play with others and learn from adults not related to them... and they do. The adults teaching our children are helping us RAISE our children.
Reverend Mark contributes in raising my children every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday through his teachings. Susan at Kildonan United Church helps in raising my children on Friday nights through her Youth Group. On Sundays, when I'm not teaching Sunday School, another Sunday School teacher contributes in raising my children. The hockey coach helps raise Dayton through coaching him in hockey. The swimming coach contributes in raising my children during swimming, the bowling employees help Dayton and Amber and Demetra helps our family raise Amber and Dayton through "I Can Pretend." The parents who bring their children to PACE Kid's gymboree contribute to raising my children as I help in raising theirs. When I talk about PACE and the kids I meet, I refer to the kids as "my kids." Beverley's son Evan always runs up to me and asks for a kiss from "Lou." The teacher who takes the kids skating... she's contributing to raising our children...
For parents of children on the autism spectrum it can be tough to let go of their children and let someone else help teach their child. I know it is that way for me, which is how I ended up becoming a Sunday School Teacher. I worry about my children and want what is best for them. I also don't want someone else feeling overwhelmed when my children struggle through their lessons. I feel responsible for my children's behavior, and want to be there to help and coach my children, and while I do, I learn valuable lessons myself.
I know I'm not alone in struggling with this concept. There's many of you out there feeling you can't go out, I've been there. Feeling secluded in your home as you're afraid of your child's reaction to going out and doing something out of routine, and worried about other people's reactions. I see it all over Facebook, blogs and other articles, where mothers are sad because their child wasn't invited to a birthday party, or their child has no friends, or their child isn't involved in any extra-curricular activities, etc... I was there once. I spent years afraid of people's reactions, and it was so much easier to stay at home where Dayton and I were safe. When I tried to venture out, even just outside my apartment into our courtyard, there were parents who thought Dayton was too aggressive, too wild. I build a cocoon around us, where we were comfortable, lonely, but very comfy. Dayton's grown the last two years since I broke out of our shell. It was tough at first, but we did it, and now there's no going back. Could it be that we just "lucked out" by finding the right place? Perhaps, but we never would have found the right place had we stayed home instead of ventured out in search of it. And if all else fails, create one like I did. PACE Kid's gymboree was selfishly created by my need for Dayton to make "quality friendships." Yes, I said selfish. I wanted MY child to have a chance to learn, grow and make friends. I was getting no where in my back yard. I'm a baaaaad person. Fortunately for us, our Kid's gymboree has grown, and not just in size. We are actually liked. A lot. And I am proud of this. And the kids... I LOVE THEM. Like I said, they're "my kids."
It takes a village to raise a child. It really does. Get out there!
For those of you struggling, email me. Message me. Call me.
Above all, consider yourselves hugged,