Most new parents will admit that no matter how prepared they felt going into childbirth, once baby arrived they realized just how much they didn’t know. Thankfully, there are abundant parenting resources to be found to help with everything from colic to diaper rash.
Parents of kids with autism however, get the award for “most humbling” parenting, as our learning curve is Grand-Canyon steep. We’ve yet to see a How To guide for handling the daily dilemmas that autism brings.
Before autism, I was quite organized and thought that if I planned and worked hard enough at something, it would all work out. Was I ever surprised to learn how unorganized my life had become and that no matter how much I put my mind to the challenges, things often didn’t work out as hoped or planned. There were days I’d be reduced to a puddle of tears in the middle of my kitchen floor. As a social worker, I was skilled at locating and navigating resources for others but when it came to my own child, I found myself humbly amongst scores of “regular old parents” trying to make sense of confusing, hard-to-access services.
As a busy parent, you may not have time to see the benefits of humility but I assure you – they are there. Here are some that I’m aware of.
Realizing you don’t know it all . . .
- Allows you to ask for help, a good thing to learn, particularly early on in the diagnosis
- Allows for curiosity, always helpful when trying to figure out our kids
- Allows you to build a team for you child and your family- this is a team effort
- Allows you to continue to ask, research, read, and explore possibilities
- Allows you to share the difficulties and the successes with others
- Allows you to become a skilled listener and to take the other’s perspective
- Allows you to pick yourself up and try again – and again and again
What research tells us about humility and great leaders
Jim Collins is a business leader and researcher who wanted to know what is was that accounted for the differences between good companies and great ones. His team came up with a list of criteria for identifying the good (the comparison companies) from the great (Level 5). When they looked at all the variables that accounted for Level 5 companies, it wasn’t what you might expect of the leaders – that they were extroverted, aggressive go-getters. Quite the contrary, they were:
- Unwavering resolve
- Self-understanding and awareness
Sound familiar? Like it or not, as parent, you are the leader of your child’s team. Teachers, therapists, doctors, and other family members all look to you for direction.
In summary, don’t worry if you don’t have it all figured out. No one does! We do the best we can under difficult circumstances because we love our kids and would move heaven and earth to help them.
Here are some reminders for those times when you’re feeling less than confident in parenting:
- We don’t know what we don’t know (so much is new and unpredictable)
- Surrender to that truth
- Stay open to learning
- Calm always trumps chaos
- Be aware of own strengths and limits
- Put ourselves in the shoes of others
- Ask for help and help others
“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”
- John Wilmot (2nd Earl of Rochester, 1647-1680)
Is parenting your child with autism a humbling experience? Share your story with us. We’d love to hear from you!