When I was pregnant with my son, I was in my late 30’s. Since it was my first child, I thought it was a good idea to go through the pregnancy and birthing classes offered by the hospital. While I had served as the birthing coach for a friend, I knew doing it was different than coaching it, so off my husband and I went to the classes.
We were easily the oldest couple there. I listened to the other soon-to-be moms talk about their birthing plans.
Invariably, they all said the same thing: “I want a natural child-birth. No pitocin for me. I won’t have an epidural, and no c-section, either.”
Me? I wanted a healthy child. I was focused on the big-picture and knew that things don’t always go as planned.
Which was a good thing, because I had those young mothers’ nightmare delivery – the pitocin, epidural, and c-section trifecta.
I am not judging. Had I been 10 years younger, I would have been first in line with a comprehensive and detailed birthing plan, complete with black and white do’s and don’t’s, nicely bound with a clear plastic cover.
Keeping my eye on the big picture turned out to be incredibly important for parenting my son, even though it sometimes meant that my approaches were unconventional or unpopular with others.
Like many children on the autism spectrum, my son had sensitivities to touch. He liked to wear soft clothes, especially sweatpants and pajama pants, and will reject outright anything that doesn’t feel right.
When he started school, I offered him jeans to wear, and he wanted his soft pants. The other kids would ask him why he was wearing pajamas, so I bought him nice sweatpants for school that did not look like pajamas and talked him into wearing those.
Wearing the soft pants was more important to him than looking like the other kids in his classroom.
If he wasn’t worried, I was not worried about what he wore and it was more important that he be comfortable than my opinion of conformity. I also knew that forcing the issue would be worse.
In the third grade, he started caring about what he wore to school, and started wearing jeans. It was important that he took the lead in deciding what he would wear, not me driving that process.
I was an incredibly picky child. I bless the pediatrician who told my mother not to force me to eat anything, not to substitute if I wouldn’t eat the meal in front of me, and that I would not starve. The fights with my mom over meals stopped, and there was peace in the house.
My son is also a picky eater and his sensitivities include foods, both tastes and textures. It is a challenge to find foods that he will eat and that are nutritious.
This is another big picture area for me – no stress, no trauma is needed. It is OK that he may want pancakes at every meal, or eggs, or cereal, or roasted seaweed. Again, I let him take the lead and he finds his way around those things he likes and those he cannot tolerate.
Again, forcing the issue would only cause undue stress.
Toilet training and accidents can be stressful for a lot of people and learning proper toilet training is crucial to a child’s health and social development. As for many parents of children on the autism spectrum, toilet training was a long process. We experienced the poop finger-painting, and multiple steam cleanings of the carpet.
Through all of that, I never pushed or berated him. For me, the big picture was that he would eventually figure it out.
When he started first grade, we had an “emergency kit” in a “secret compartment” of his backpack. It was a gallon zip lock bag with a clean pair of socks, underwear, and softpants so that he would know what to do if there were problems at school.
He never needed it.
A friend once said to me
to raise your child well, not only do you need to pick your battles, but you need to win them, too.
This is why it is so important to look at the big picture – in the long run, is this a battle I need to win? Or will it sort itself out if I leave it alone?