Every once in awhile I like to check in with my children about their life.
This morning I had a moment alone with Estelle and I asked, “Estelle, if there is anything in your life that you could change what would it be?”
I expected my 6th grader to say something about having friends over more often or not having allergies. I was expecting her to ask for something new or to have the gap between her front teeth fixed (which is, by the way, not THAT big).
Nope. None of the above.
Instead she said, “I wish Tucker didn’t have autism.”
That’s one way to shut me up and stop me dead in my tracks.
Then she said, “No. I guess not. I mean him having autism really gives me good opportunities to learn how to be patient and kind.”
That’s another way to shut me up and stop me dead in my tracks.
Seriously. Who is this child? Is she really only 11?
I told her that she did not need to recant her statement. I told her it was okay to want that. Then I asked, “Why do you wish that?”
She still refused until I said, “You know Estelle, sometimes I wish that too. I mean I obviously love him just the way he is but sometimes I just want to freak out. You know? Like this morning when he asked for the 18th time when we are going to do Fantasy Football? That makes me crazy.”
Finally she said, “It’s just kind of annoying.”
I pressed her for more stressing that it was okay. That it’s okay to talk to me about why autism is frustrating to her. It’s okay to talk to trusted grown-ups about how she feels – and that grown-ups won’t think she’s being mean. We know that she loves him…and she simply needs to vent.
So she went on….
“Well, sometimes when I’m talking he’ll just bust in and take over. It’s not a huge deal – but it’s annoying.
He has to think longer than other people do when he’s talking and sometimes it’s annoying to try to have a conversation with him.
Other times he doesn’t think long enough and just acts out without thinking about how if effects someone else, that’s super annoying.
His obsessions are annoying…but then I like it that he gets obsessed about things because he leaves me alone.”
I told her how much I appreciated her honesty and if there was anything I could do to help. She said, “No. I got it now, Mom. Really – most of the time I have figured out what to do.”
So, yes – she’s remarkable…but the real reason I’m writing about this conversation is that I think, as parents, we have to give children the opportunity to vent. They have to know there is a safe place to talk about their annoyances…no matter how ‘silly’ they seem. We all need this – in friendships, marriages, and other relationships.
I have a constant irritation that comes from expecting more from children than adults, themselves, are capable. Of course, we all get annoyed with each other. The most important part is that we don’t necessarily need to vet another’s vents to others. In no way would I ever tell Tucker all the things that his sister told me. In no way would I go to Estelle and tell her all the things that annoy her brother.
In those moments we can listen and teach grace. Autism is not a silly annoyance, it’s very real – but she needs to know that her complaints can be met with grace, compassion, and most importantly – validation.
Bless you, my beautiful daughter.