Parenting is one of those things where you can’t help but share your experiences and insights with other parents, especially if they’re new parents. It’s one of those things where, even when you know you shouldn’t, you still speak up when you see them doing something you don’t agree with. It’s one of those things where, when you take care of their child, you ‘sneak’ in some of your own brand of parenting because you think they’ll be better for it. It’s… well, it’s really quite invasive, isn’t it??
We all do it and we all mean well, it’s always done with the kindest heart, even when you just want to scream at them to just shut up… please just shut up! But you don’t, because you know they’re not wrong, and they’re just trying to help… it’s just that, they don’t know your child as well as you do and their methods, although they may not be wrong, may be a bit dated.
Let’s take grandparents as an example because I think we can all agree that they can be some of the worst in this department. They raised you and you turned out just fine, right? And they are a great source of wisdom, so it’s only natural they’d have the most to ‘share’ with you.
But sometimes, it can be a bit much for the young parents who just want to do things for themselves, right or wrong… they need to be their own kind of parent, not someone else’s.
Now, this brings me to Autism… let’s face it, even if they had an Autistic child, they didn’t have yours… and they’re all different. But chances are, they didn’t. And they haven’t done all the research you have nor spent the same amount of time with your child as you have and therefore, they keep giving their same old advice and it really doesn’t even come close to applying to your situation now. But they still mean well and you still listen with a smile knowing full well that you can’t do what they did.
What I am trying to say is that it’s up to you to educate, even the most stubborn “I did it and I know what I’m talking about” kind of advice giver… you can’t just smile and nod because they don’t know. They don’t understand. They haven’t been in your shoes.
I’d like to share with you one example where we didn’t educate enough, we didn’t make ourselves clear enough or… we simply never would have been able to but after the deed was done, the lesson was definitely learned.
We took my wife’s mother with us to a pasta restaurant where we knew full well that our choices would be extremely limited since Cameron (my son) is on a strict gluten free diet. We got him some pasta but never intended for him to eat much of it. Just a little… and we’d pad that with other food, even deserts if we had to.
Well, being a good grandmother, she disagreed with filling a child with deserts or ‘other food’… she knew full well that he was on the diet, and knew fell well that we’d object. However, she didn’t know just what the gluten did to him. She didn’t understand the full extent of his condition. As I said, we tried to explain but really, who believes that a little pasta will set off a child like a grown man on heroine?
So, as my wife and I went off in search of food for him (at a buffet), Cameron’s grandmother took it upon herself to feed him some more of his supper before we got back. As I said earlier, she wasn’t really wrong in doing it… it’s what I would expect a grandmother to do. However, as I also said, in the case of Autism… we failed in educating her properly.
We got back to our table and protested what she did, she argued that he’d be fine… damage was done, what can we do.
So we returned home afterwards where the monster quickly revealed itself… and when I say monster, I mean it. He was screaming, going wild, jumping off of furniture… to say he was bouncing off the walls is quite a literal expression. He actually got a big bruise under his chin from hitting a wall… under his chin!!
He finally went to sleep some time after midnight (his bed time is 7pm) and woke up very sluggish, very slow and proceeded to spend the entire day on the couch, in a ball, rocking back and forth apologizing to us, telling us he loves it, saying sorry… just, so secluded, so alone.
I swear to you, it was like watching a drug addict go from a major high to a very extreme low and it all happened so very fast. Even other family members that were around that day or the day after commented on how bizarre he was acting, how different he was. They were shocked that a few bites of pasta would cause such a huge change in him.
His grandmother felt terrible (I really hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this story) and she realized then and there that despite her good intentions, she really needs to take what we say seriously. That when we say he has extremely bad reactions to gluten, we mean it.
It’s a lesson I wish we could make really clear to those around us without them having to see it first hand… but I have yet to find what works. Parents are proud people and they raised children successfully. Plus, Autism is still very foreign to many people, especially older people. To some people, they just see wild, disobedient children and some even go so far as to dismiss Autism entirely… they figure it’s just the parent’s fault these days.
What ever the case, it’s hard to convince more experienced parents that they really don’t know better than you. But for your sake, for your child’s sake, you have to. Don’t wait until they learn the lesson the hard way. Sit them down, show them videos, show them information, make them understand.
You have to prepare your child for the world as best you can but you also have to prepare the world for your child.