I think one of the most common things parents of children with Autism feel but rarely identify correctly is fear. Fear of the unknown; how will my child react? Fear of society’s opinions; how will people around me react? Fear of failure; what if I can’t handle him?
No one wants to admit they feel fear but when I can identify something I fear it allows me to take a deeper look at the feeling and ask myself why. When you’ve limited yourself in the past because of fear, like I have, it is hard to know your limits once you overcome that. Excuses I’ve used in the past that were mostly fear based, maybe logically sound reasons to skip on an activity now. However, since I used these reasons as excuses in the past, I will second guess myself and feel as though I need to push past and ignore what maybe an instinctual self preserving, healthy reaction.
When my son’s behaviors were at their worst (I hope), I would rather stay home and avoid anything that might trigger this behavior. I usually did some thing fun and active to make up for the opportunity he had missed, but I started to notice it wasn’t always his capabilities holding us back from new experiences. Sometimes it was mine. Determining the difference in the two was challenging, sometimes a situation was too much for J and I was right to skip it, but sometimes my fear to confront something new with him was what kept us from an opportunity.
I got over this fear by realizing that in the grand scheme of things it’s just a moment, and if it goes awry then at least we tried, and if it goes smoothly, Woo Hoo! I was putting a huge amount of pressure on myself and J, pressure to live up to what society deems as acceptable behavior from a child and a parent.
Unfortunately this new-found confidence bites me in the butt sometimes. I push too much, to the point where we are all exhausted or spread to thin. As it is important to have confidence in the approach of new experiences it is also important to know my limits. It’s ok to say no to some things as long as it is for the right reasons, safety always being the paramount one. If I don’t feel I can safely approach a new experience because of lack of energy or patience that’s a good reason to skip. It is also important to rectify these reasons if possible, so that on the next opportunity we will be ready.
As I get closer to my third trimester of pregnancy my body is forcing me to realize I am still a human being although I think I have super powers sometimes 🙂 I need sleep, I lack patience, and I can’t physically do things the way I could in the earlier months and before pregnancy. And that’s ok!
One of the best super powers we all have as parents is that little intuitive voice that tells us what we should really be doing. Perspective also helps the guilt and FOMO: 1. These months will pass 2. I will get my energy back, but only if I’m healthy enough to get there. 3. We will take part in the opportunities we are meant to. 4. Life is long if I approach it with that belief.
So I don’t feel as guilt ridden when I have to pass on an opportunity now because I know I am doing it for the right reasons, not fear of the unknown but for my physical and mental health as well as the safety and enjoyment of my family. And that little intuitive voice agrees.
Would love to hear about any times you found yourself limiting your child or yourself because of fear and how you overcame it, or if you’ve had any fears you just can’t seem to conquer. Maybe myself or the community can help. Sometimes it helps just to write them, you are only alone if you want to be.