It’s in the letting go of expectations that we find the freedom to truly be.
The expectations. Oh, the plans I had for my kids. I’m not even sure what they were anymore. Time has a way of blurring our memories. That’s good, because reality has a way of changing our plans. It’s hard to be disappointed that things didn’t turn out the way you planned if you can’t remember what you planned in the first place.
Our kids and their futures go from a concept to a fact faster than you ever realize it could happen. One minute you’re dreaming of having kids and the next they’re walking out the door, heading off to pursue their own plans. That’s just how life goes. As much as we try to control it, time has a mind of its own. So, too, do our children. So why does it come as a surprise that we can’t control them either?
I’m not even going to get into the concept of controlling your teenagers. I don’t have one yet. Mine are 8, 10, and 12. Even at this young age they’ve proven that, as much as I’d like to control their destiny, I can only do so much. The rest is up to them.
None of my kids has done so much to reinforce this concept as The Son. He was our second-born child and our first-born (and only) boy. So, boys. You probably have some sort of preconceived notion of how boys are supposed to be. Certainly we did. He’d be a rough-and-tumble type, play baseball or soccer, be a Boy Scout, and maybe someday join the armed forces. We nurtured those dreams for the first few years, but even then he seemed so different from other boys. Eventually we found out he that he hates sports, doesn’t like to participate in group activities, and doesn’t like being outdoors because there are bugs outside. We also found out that he has High-Functioning Autism and ADHD.
Imagine taking all of your plans and expectations, and realizing that most of them are no longer an option. Military service is obviously out. We could force the sports issue, but he hates it. Why try to make the kid unhappy? He doesn’t like to spend much time with people, so Boy Scouts isn’t a great option either.
What’s left? Him, just being himself, and us trying to figure out how to help him be the best person he can be. Instead of trying to get him to meet our expectations of what he should be, we’re helping him to be successful as himself – and oh, what a self he has. He’s more self-confident than most people I know. He’s content to let his freak flag fly. The other day, as I was picking him up from school, I noticed that he was wearing his ball cap on top of the hood of his jacket. It looked a little silly to me, so as he got in the car I mentioned to him that it was supposed to go on his head. He told me that he knew, but that’s the way he wanted to wear it. Good enough for me, but not good enough for his younger sister, who also remarked upon it when we picked her up at her school. He told her that he wore his hat that way because it looked weird and that’s the way he liked it. “Cool!” she said, in her typically enthusiastic way. It hit me then – her approach to him went from derogatory to celebratory just because he displayed some confidence in his approach to life. Why can’t we all be that brave and strong?
Most fourth graders want to fit in. Mine’s ok with standing out and being his own person. I can attribute this directly to his autism. He honestly doesn’t care what other people think of him. He’s empathetic towards others, but he’s self-possessed enough to not really care about their feelings towards him.
This gift of his has helped me be a better parent. I don’t try to make the kids be how I want them to be. I try to let them be the best person they can be.They only get one shot at their life. It should be theirs to live for themselves, not to live for what I want. If I don’t have expectations about how they will be, I’ll never be disappointed that they didn’t turn out that way. That’ll just leave me more time to love them for themselves, which is what a parent should do.