Acceptance is not a one time thing. At least it hasn’t been for me. It’s like travelling from the surface of yourself,
through deeper and darker layers of who you are and what you believe.
Accepting my autistic son’s behaviours and honoring his needs is not a one time thing. He leads me down through layers of my own murk. Sometimes it is gentle – a nudge that breaks through to a new layer. Sometimes it is volcanic – an eruption that tears a hole into the next layer and there is no going back.
A couple of years ago, I thought I’d reached the core. Looking back now, I see I was way up at the surface of my acceptance, challenging only the simple stuff that was not so hard to correct. Realising this helps me to know that we are all at different stages of accepting our autistic children and ourselves. Some of us are at the starting line, unaware of the depths below us. Some of us are well into the deconstruction and cringe when we see glimpses of our earlier selves.
I am deeper down now. In the layers that I didn’t know existed. I am unearthing the dirt of society’s rules and expectations. Dirt that I didn’t know I had stuck to me, but there it is.
The latest layer was a painful one to crack. Some of them aren’t. Some are sweet, like when you’ve had a day struggling with the thunder of vocal stimming and self pity and you are confronted with the perfection of their small sleeping face. You soften and all of the day’s noise melts away. It doesn’t matter. And for a time there is grace in the acceptance of whatever behaviour was niggling at you. There is connection and wholeness.
But acceptance is not a one time thing and before you know it, the tension is building again. When this happens, I start stacking a new wall, one brick at a time. Each day my frustration stacks more bricks on and connection between us begins to break. There is a new layer waiting but I am building defenses around it, stalling for time. My defenses are words and thoughts like
This isn’t fair
I just can’t give on this particular point
He’s being unreasonable
What will become of him if I don’t insist on this one thing?
But he will not let me hide behind this wall. If I don’t dismantle it myself, he will crash it down for me and we will all be exhausted from the chaos left in its wake.
Once the wall is down, the ground under my feet will crack and crumble and like it or not, I will be in new territory. Days of uncertainty and confusion will follow where I grasp for some way to pull myself back up to where I was before – reaching out to trusted friends who are also journeying through their own layers of acceptance.
Sometimes, the learning is shockingly simple and you wonder why the battle had to be so big for you to learn it.
Your child wearing their pajamas in public will not cause anything at all to happen
Hair really doesn’t need to be washed
Anger takes time to learn how to express without hurting anyone
Other times, the learning is complex and slippery and leaves you feeling raw and exposed. It shows you glimpses of yourself that you haven’t been ready to see before. It’s not enjoyable. But when it’s done and you are solid on new territory, it feels as though a burden has fallen from you and the connection between you and your child is strengthened. There is sweetness here, amidst the wildness of life.
Acceptance is not a one time thing. It’s a journey to the centre of yourself.