I am in no way eager for my boys to grow up but a strange thing happens to you when your child falls behind in development, whether it’s due to Autism or anything else… you want them to not just catch up, you want them to surpass everyone… but still not grow up too fast!
Cameron will be turning 5 at the end of July, it’s coming up fast… and so I’ve started to talk to him about things I’ll expect once he’s a bigger boy. It’s kind of funny because I picture these conversations happening again when he hits his teens and he’ll be dreading every minute of it, but for right now, he’s so eager to be a big boy that he can’t wait for me to add more weight onto his shoulders!
Now, these sorts of things will be different for everyone but for my boy and me, these are his new duties:
1. I expect that he will take his own bites of his food and do it without the need to be reminded.
It sounds pretty simple, it also sounds pretty hopeless by most children’s standards really… but he is really quite responsible, just in a different way, so I know he can do this. As it is now, because he needs to be doing something at all times, he comes in for me to give him a bite when I call him, and then disappears again to play until I call him again. This system does work well but often times it leaves him lagging while his 2 year old little brother finishes his own plate on his own and gets a yummy dessert sooner. This frustrates Cameron and a meltdown ensues.
He can see that his 2 year old brother that can’t count, or put on his own shoes or get the colours quite right yet is able to eat entirely on his own and get dessert faster… so he knows full well that he can do it too. He’s knows that mom and dad take their own bites and finish sooner as well.
So he now knows that when he’s 5, I expect that he’ll be able to do it as well, and he has no objections… so far. We’ll see.
2. If you put something down, and later can’t remember where you put it down, it stays lost until you find it yourself.
This is a pretty common thing for all children, you offer them something and they just drop what’s in their hands and let it fall where it may. Last night, I gave him his cup of chocolate soy milk before bed and said goodnight. A little while later, because it was so hot, he moved to a cooler room to sleep and asked for another cup. I asked him where his cup was and he said he didn’t know… implying I should just go find it.
I sat down with him on the bed and gave him his big boy responsibility number two… mommy and daddy can’t be expected to just find things for him. He’s lost some toys that he wishes he hasn’t, they’re no longer coming back. And he’s old enough to understand that… he knows that they’re not in the house, there’s no finding them. And he knows that they’re gone because he put them down and couldn’t remember later where that was.
Obviously, I don’t expect perfection, everybody has put something down at some point in their life and forgotten where it was. Keys? cell phone? sunglasses? Anyway, I don’t expect he’ll always know but I want him to work on it, things that are more routine like that night time cup should be put in a place where later, when I ask, he can easily get it or tell me where it is because he’ll remember.
As a parent, it’s hard… you don’t want your kids to go growing up too fast, but it’s also frustrating having to always find their stuff, always having to feed them forever.
I think it’s because I know that for some parents of more severe Autistic children, they’ll never get to a point where they can stop feeding their child, their child will never ever remember where they just dropped something… it’s because those parents would love for nothing more than to have even the simplest responsibilities demonstrated by their children that I have to work at making sure my child does.
For example, Cameron is doing very well despite having Autism, but when I see another parent who doesn’t even bother to teach their child anything because they figure the school will do that for them… it makes me furious. How dare you take advantage of that, how dare you take something simple like taking a few minutes to educate your child for granted when it’s so much harder for us to do and we still do it anyway!
Anyway, you get my point… I push for big boy responsibilities in my child because I want to see him progress, to catch up, to exceed and I do it because I know he can, I know I can and I will not ever take it for granted, nor let him take it for granted when so many are unable.