When Connor turned one, I remember beginning the transition from bottle to sippy cup, just like the parenting books recommended. However, Connor had no interest in these new cups, and we spent hours, MONTHS, working on this transition. He would angrily throw the sippy cup to the floor and yell “baaah, want bah!” And I would pick up the cup and try again, over and over. And the transition to solid food was much the same, a long, drawn-out process.
I worried a lot. I was sure that I was doing something wrong, that I was lacking in the natural mothering instinct that most women have. I worried about milestones and timelines, and feared that others would judge when we didn’t meet them. I didn’t want my son to be judged. I wanted to protect him, to shield him from others forming opinions about what he was, or wasn’t, doing.
So I pushed. We kept working on the things we were supposed to be working on, according to the books. But it didn’t seem to matter how much I pushed, Connor would get to the next step when he was darn good and ready, and not one single moment before that.
As this last week of summer camp has drawn to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what a great summer this has been, especially when compared to previous summer camp experiences. There are different reasons for that: Connor is older and a tad more mature; the medication regimen is different from last year, and includes a seizure med that helps with impulsivity; and the environment was a good fit for Connor.
During past summer breaks, we’ve enrolled Connor at the Y’s summer program, believing that it was important for him to be with “typical” peers. We thought the more exposure he had with NT children, the more he would learn appropriate social interaction. When he struggled through the summer, our frustration grew, and we continually tried to get staff to provide better, more individual support for him.
Last year, he attended the same adaptive camp he’s in this year, but he had a difficult time, and staff could not provide adequate support to meet his needs. We finally had to move him to an even more “adaptive” camp, where he received more individual support and guidance.
So this year feels a little like hitting that next milestone, returning to the prior camp. But much like getting him to transition to the sippy cup, per the typical timeline, things fell into place when HE was ready. Not when WE wanted them to happen.
And therein lies the lesson. Acceptance doesn’t just mean that you accept the diagnosis, it also means meeting your child where they are, instead of pushing them to jump ahead and meet you where you want them to be. That means letting go of fear; fear that your child won’t be accepted, that they won’t be at the same place as their peers, that they won’t become independent.
Connor will learn all the things that he is capable of learning, WHEN he is capable of learning them. It doesn’t really matter whether it happens on a timeline out of some parenting book, because the most important thing is Connor’s internal timeline, and his readiness.
That means that my job is to give him the support he needs at this moment in time, and not pushing him to fit into situations he’s not ready for. It’s okay to make the sippy cup available, but it’s not okay to force it on him.
These are the mistakes I’ve made.