“Making” My Kids Try: Raising Children Who Do Things

“So, you were right, Mom.  It was really actually very fun.” Words every mother wants to hear, “You were right, Mom”.  Aren’t they?  Such words were especially sweet to hear after my four year old had reluctantly been dropped off at his first day of “preschool” (a supplemental program run by a homeschool friend in her home).  For weeks, ever since we made the announcement that my youngest, Drayken, was going to school two mornings a week (not only so that I could more successfully homeschool my two third graders but also so that he could spend some of his time out and about doing things with other people, children his own age, rather than sitting all day with an iPad and headphones watching endless episodes of “Daniel Tiger” or “Curious George” on Netflix), he has insisted that he was not going to attend school.

Our response was to simply encourage him and ensure that he was going to enjoy his day at school very much.

A little peak into Drayken's first day of school.

A little peak into Drayken’s first day of sch

When the day came, earlier this week, he had a rough time getting going.  Of course, I expected that.  There were tears and crossed arms.  A grumpy mouth which proclaimed, “I’m not going”.  However, a gentle reminder that his grandparents and little cousin would be picking him up after lunch for an afternoon of playing and swimming motivated him to move his body to the car.  He knew he didn’t want to miss that.

We rode in silence all of the way across town to school at the Little Log Cottage.  After pulling into the driveway, I got out and opened his door.  Huge tears were rolling down his face.  He was scared.  I said to him, in a kind voice, “Buddy, this is a new experience for you and sometimes that can be scary, but I’m certain if you give it a try, you will be successful.”  He got out of the car.

I left him that morning.  He seemed to have recovered by the time I headed home.  And just as I predicted, he did have a great time.  I’m not sure which part of what I said or did was the magical element to helping him cope with this new experience.  I’m not even sure that I had anything to do with it.  But what I am sure of is that if he’d had his way, he would have skipped school that morning and not had nearly as much fun at home fighting with his brother and being scolded for throwing shoes at people.

I am reminded of my own childhood.  I am reminded of the countless times I was allowed to make my own decisions.  Of the times when my parents followed my lead.  There were many.  Like the time I passed the test for band and secretly wanted to do band but was scared it was too expensive so the one time I was asked, “Do you want to do band?” and I said, “No”, my parents just dropped the subject.  And the time I expressed an interest in trying out for basketball and then quickly let my insecurities stand in my way.  Or that time I didn’t bother to apply for the Governor’s School for the Arts because I knew there was simply no way on earth I’d be accepted but I wanted it so badly I could taste it.  How about that time my mom found out I was 19, pregnant, and going the next day to an abortion clinic, yet she just let me because it was my “choice”?  In each of these incidences, I deeply wanted someone, anyone, to step up and tell me I had to do things differently.  Someone to drag me to the audition or lock me in a bathroom to keep me from making the biggest mistake of my life.  I needed someone to “make” me do the right thing.

Sure, had someone made me do the right thing, I might not have liked them very much right there, in the moment but maybe I would have come out the other side liking myself a little better. 

I am less interested in what my children end up thinking about me than what they think of themselves.

Trying and being a failure is 100 times better than not trying at all.

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Theater is an important part of my young son’s life.

At some point my kids will learn that if they tell me they are interested in something, I will bug the heck out of them until they either try or have sufficiently proven to me that they are no longer interested in that thing and they have moved on to being interested in something else entirely.

When my older son, Hunter, expressed an interest in acting, I set out getting him head shots, an agent, and gigs.  And we did all of that.  He wasn’t wildly successful but darned if he’s not been in a feature film, a commercial and is currently cast in his seventh theatrical production.  Before auditions for this last show, however, he announced that he wasn’t going to auditions.  He’s done this several times.  In the case of this show, he didn’t want to be involved with a production in which his brother was also cast.  I ignored him.  He dropped it and auditioned anyway.

My daughter, on the other hand, has been in three plays and a commercial.  Though talented at acting, she’s no longer interested in continuing to go to auditions.  And that is fine because she has something else she likes better:  softball and being a part of American Heritage Girls.  Theater will always be there if she has time between ball seasons.  The important thing is that she stays actively involved with something that gives her confidence and an important skill.

Also, I’m of the opinion that busy children yield busy teenagers. And busy teens are less likely to make huge mistakes.  They don’t have the time.  And I don’t mean kids should have no down time.  Mine get at least a couple of hours of free time a day thanks to home school.  But I do feel it’s important for children to develop a sense of pride in hobbies and activities within their community so that when they are teens they will be less likely to be looking for recreational activities.  I did not establish healthy hobbies and I wasn’t part of any activities in my community.  When I was a teenager, I was bored.  Boys became my community activity.

I want more for my children.  Which is precisely why I will “make” my children try things, follow through, and give 110% before throwing in the towel.  I find it an intricate part of my game plan to eliminate the need to one day lock my daughter in the bathroom to prevent her from making mistakes.  But I’ll do that, too, if I have to.

Being an Aspergirl and Being a Wife: 5 Guidelines for Aspies to Consider Before Marriage

After I started writing about being an Aspie, I received an email from someone who had been reading my articles.  She had noticed that I wrote about being married and she wondered what else I might have to say on the topic.

It’s no secret that marriage has been hard for me.  Not only did my husband and I start out on really rocky ground, but, let’s face it, we’ve had a bunch of HUGE hurdles placed in our way during our journey.  It’s almost fair to say that the odds have been stacked against us.

While we are still technically married, I wish I could say that we haven’t given up.  Years ago, I gave up.  And just about the time I check back in, he gave up.  He continues to appear to be given up today even.  But I still hold out faith that as long as the papers haven’t been filed, there is a fighting chance that we’ll make it until death do us part.  That’s my goal at least.

I’m aware that marriage is not an easy peasy institution for anyone who enters into it.  No marriage is without challenges.  However, my marriage seems to have been particularly challenging.  As an aspie, I feel like it would have been nice to have had a bit more guidance when picking a mate so that I didn’t enter into a marriage that was essentially doomed from the start and that didn’t have to be so darned excruciating and difficult to live in.

So here are five guidelines I’ve written about that, I believe, would have been helpful to have had in place to better ensure (as if you can do such a thing) that I enter into a marriage that stood a great chance of being successful.

1.  Read books.  Whether you are a Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist or don’t know what you believe, it’s a good idea to read books about marriage. ( I don’t have any titles in mind as I haven’t read a lot of books about marriage.  But reading and learning seems like a good idea.) There are plenty of nonreligious books out there to choose from if that floats your boat.  It’s also a good idea to read books about communication.  As an only child who was raised by poor communicators, I had no clue until quite recently how much better I’d feel if I was able to communicate in a more constructive manner.  I’ve been reading a book entitled Nonviolent Communication and I wish that I’d read it as a teen.  Maybe if I had some of my other relationships would have been healthier.

2.  Have your partner read books about Asperger’s.  When I read through books that have been published recently about Aspies (particularly females with Asperger’s), I feel so validated, so at home, so understood.  I frequently ask my husband to read these books so as to better understand me but he refuses to.  I can’t help but wonder if maybe he’d “get me” better, especially at times when I’ve frustrated or annoyed him beyond all comprehension, if he’d just read the darned books.  Offer to read some books that might help you better understand your partner in exchange.  If he/she refuses to read the books, he/she probably isn’t the person for you anyway.

3.  Premarital Counseling.  And I’m not talking about going in to meet with a pastor a few times and taking some multiple choice test.  On paper you might look like a perfect match.  You both come from an unbroken home, both are white and middle class, well educated, intelligent, moral, upstanding citizens who seem to share similar values about important issues.  This means nothing.  And I mean that quite literally.  These ways of predicting “marital compatibility” really aggravate me as they are based upon statistics and in no way look at an individual’s personality, needs, weaknesses, strengths, or true desires.  So, while my husband and I passed with flying colors as perfect candidates for marriage according to the church, ten years later, the same man who gave us these evaluations told my husband that maybe he should move out and stop living with me.  Find a counselor who is familiar with your special needs and make sure you are very honest with that counselor.  They will happily steer you in the (true) right direction.

4.  Find an advocate.  At the time of my marriage, I was very alone.  The closest person in my life was the man I was marrying.  I had very few friends.  The ones I did have kept me at a distance.  Or also wanted to marry me.  I just simply didn’t have a support system.  I was no longer very close to my parents.  Though I spoke to them often, they didn’t know what was really going on in my life.  I wish that I’d had people who truly cared about me and knew me to talk to me about what was going on.  I had no idea that I was being treated in a way that I didn’t deserve… no idea that I was being manipulated and abused.  Now I see it.  But at the time I was just so smitten and had such poor self-worth that I didn’t realize I was setting myself up for hurt and failure.

A good advocate would be someone to whom you could speak about virtually anything, a person who understands and values you, a person who knows something about the needs of an individual with asperger’s or is willing to try.  This person should also be able to be honest with you without judging you. Perhaps a close friend, a sibling, or a parent could be an advocate for you.  If a parent knows the truth about how their child is being treated and still approves of the relationship, chances are pretty good that the child is not in an abusive relationship.  An exception would be if the parent was abusive or dealing with their own mental or emotional health issues.  Then they might not be the best advocate.

5.  Talk to your gut.  More often than not, your gut will tell you if you are in a healthy relationship.  If you feel the need to hide things that your partner says or does to you, you are most likely being abused.  If you feel worse about yourself after spending time with or talking to your partner, someone is unhealthy somewhere!  If you are questioning your physical or emotional safety in the relationship, this probably isn’t the relationship for you.  It’s never a good idea to enter into a marriage when your gut is telling you that you aren’t safe.  My gut told me that I was making a bad choice but since I just recently learned to listen to my gut, I ignored it at the time, assuming it was wrong.  Because I was wrong. I was always wrong.

Finally, I will say, that even if you missed all of the warning signs and decided to go ahead and get married anyway, that does not mean you don’t stand a fighting chance.  I like this quote by Ron Swanson from Season 3 Episode 9, “Fancy Party” of “Parks and Recreation”:  “You find somebody you like and you roll the dice.  That’s all anybody can do.”  There is so much truth to his statement.  We are all at risk for divorce.  No matter how Christian, how compatible, how ideal one’s circumstances, divorce is always a risk.  But, it isn’t a bad idea to try and take as many precautions before you marry as you possibly can, especially if you are dealing with extra challenges like Asperger’s.

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A life-changing read!

Just remember… if you meet someone who makes you laugh, who takes care of you, who lets you take care of them, who asks how your day was and is genuinely interested, who wants to know more and more about you, who is your very best friend, who is your biggest cheerleader, and who is the first person you want to call when something bad or sad or glad or anywhere in between happens… you probably have yourself a pretty decent mate.  Those types of people don’t come along very often.  Give them a shot.  It’s not going to get any better than that.

Update:  For the record, my husband is a good man.  With a good heart.  I know that he made choices in the past for which he’s not proud.  And I also know that he didn’t realize that he was hurting me and doing things that would cause me so much damage.  Just like I didn’t realize I was hurting him.  I don’t mean to imply that he’s an abuser and aware of what he was doing.  I believe we both abused and hurt one another, unknowingly.  Neither of us realized the toxic situation we were in.  We are both victims here.  Luckily we love each other, the Lord, and our children enough to keep on trying, despite the heartache.  Isn’t God amazing?