“Do you think I am too hard on him?” I asked my fiancé about our son, Trevor.
“I think sometimes you are, but also I’m too easy on him, because the challenges we have today are nothing in comparison to what we used to experience.” (And boy is it true, Autism is full of indescribable everyday challenges, fights, tantrums and beautiful moments sprinkled in.)
This is a snippet from a recent conversation with my fiancé about our parenting styles is something we often check in together on, which lead me to the realization and vocalization of the following: I’m not in his life to be easy on him, I’m here to make him be the best Trevor he can be. I came into their lives just over one year ago, when he was eight. He didn’t communicate unless it was something he really wanted to talk about, and everyday conversational skills were very early in their development. Life is so much easier than it ever had been for them, my fiancé has a wide range of patience, appreciation and understanding of the easiness of the present.
If you ever have the privilege to meet my fiancé, you’ll instantly know her warmth is palpable. Her motherly, nurturing energy exudes from her core, and she’s just the type of woman you want to laugh with. She’s this type of mother, too.
Their bond is unmatched, and their connection is unwavering. Trevor has grown into himself, started talking when he was five and each day, makes tremendous steps forward. Every few weeks, we add another layer of independence and capability to challenge him with.
He does amazingly well. Activities that were once impossible, are now normal, everyday successes. He brushes his teeth on his own, picks up after himself, cleans his own room, gets himself dressed, can make his own sandwiches, pour his own drink, order his own meals at restaurants, push the buggy for us through Target, talk about his feelings, give the best hugs … and so so much more.
From being told “your child will need to be institutionalized” by a doctor when he was a toddler, to now a thriving third grader in mainstream classes, it’s hard to believe it’s the same young boy! But, I don’t baby him. I challenge Trevor because I see and know what he is capable of, and I don’t settle for excuses. I challenge Tosca, because it’s worth the hard conversations to enable propelling him forward. We’re working on more age appropriate things like self-awareness, manners, tidiness and introducing him to responsibilities like the benefits of having his own money.
I came into this asking “why” and “can we do this differently” and an all-around fresh perspective, backed by a foundation of being raised by small-town, hard-working, middle-class parents of the 80s and 90s. Times were grittier then, heartier and simpler. We find ourselves in this constantly new but familiar time, always changing, always the same.
Parenting is an adventure, is it one we ever really master? Our son is a teacher, and a student. The more we learn with him, the more we know we don’t know. One thing is true, he is loved, and is challenged to continually progress forward in his beautiful life.