You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'parents expectations'.
Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 entries.

Being the Big Brother

  • Posted on April 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I had an awesome big brother growing up.  Pat fit the role of big brother perfectly.  He was the guy I wanted to tag along after.  He was the guy who was always willing to include me when we moved somewhere and I didn’t know how to get started making new friends.  He was always bigger, stronger, smarter, faster, braver, and surer of himself, and I was always pushing myself in a futile attempt to keep up.  At the same time, he didn’t set an impossible standard I could never hope to live up to.  He wasn’t the kind of big brother that made me feel like crap because he was so perfect.  He protected me when I felt threatened.  He would talk to me and he would take my thoughts, my dreams, and my fears seriously.  He was also willing to accept my help and came to me when I had something to offer.  He was a manly man on the outside—strong, tough, with enough of a violent streak to keep the bullies of the world in check, but not so much that he was a danger in himself.  He was also tender on the inside—a poet, a philosopher, a man willing and able to contemplate the universe and our small place within it.

While the purpose of this post is not an ode to my brother (which would be written in verse), I have to say that one important lesson my brother taught me is that hero worship isn’t worth the cost.  When I was a lot younger, still living with my parents, it was hard not to feel hero worship for my brother.  He was all those things I said, and he was athletic and creative, and he got along in society.  He fit in.  Then, after he became an adult but before I did, he made a mistake.  It was a big one.  The way he handled the fall-out made sure that I lost the hero worship without losing the respect and love I had for him.  It was a tremendously valuable lesson:  To look up to people, to love and respect them for all that they do, but not to set them on a pedestal from which they must inevitably fall.  (Having read Madeleine L’Engle’s A House Like a Lotus probably didn’t hurt, either.)

When I married Mark and “inherited” a step-son, I was glad that my children would have a big brother.  When Willy was born first, I was again glad that my younger children would have a big brother.  When it turned out that all my children were boys, I was still glad that they had big brothers.  In my mind, Brandon and Willy were each going to fill that role that my brother filled so perfectly (with all the necessary and wonderful imperfections), each in their turn.

Yeah, parents are known for their unreasonable, unsound expectations.  So, I let that go.  And that’s fine.  I don’t hold on to stuff like that.

Recently, though, I’ve been looking at my two big boys who are rapidly growing up (though, admittedly, not as rapidly as they like to think) and watching them be the big brothers that they are.  Brandon in the midst of his moody, teenage angst and boredom, taking the time to play Trouble with Willy, to engage with Alex in the silly ways that Alex loves, to pick Ben up and spin him around in ways that makes him squeal with delight.  Willy in the midst of his awkward, teenage rush to be older, trying to get Alex and Ben to behave in more appropriate, less antagonistic ways to each other, to show them things, to teach them things, and to defend them whenever anyone is too critical.  I see my boys redefining the role of big brother to suit themselves and our family, and it’s so good.  It works.  It fits.  And I’m so proud of them.

The Personality of the Matter

  • Posted on September 10, 2011 at 8:23 PM

It seems all three boys are transitioning back to school nicely. Aside from a coughing spell that lost Alex a day of school, there have been no major incidents, no reported minor incidents of the negative kind, and a lot of “wows!” Then, of course, Ben got his bearings and started being his own stubborn little self. The honeymoon is over—let the trouble begin! And that’s my Ben for you.

It’s been said many times, but: If you know one person with autism, then you know ONE person with autism. What’s left out of that quite often is the apparent differences don’t necessarily have anything to do with autism. People have personalities. Autistic people have personalities, too. And, sometimes those personalities are “problems” in and of themselves.

Not that I’m saying Ben is a problem, or that his personality is. But, if you interact with Willy or Alex, and then interact with Ben—well, autism isn’t the all of it. They’re different people: wholly and completely different people from the nature and “severity” of their autism to their coping mechanisms, from their interests to their strongest personal characteristics.

Ben tests boundaries. Sure, Alex and Willy do too, but Ben does so with a mixture of passion, determination, resourcefulness, and resilience that continues to amaze and astound. This has nothing to do with his autism, but is part of his personality. It’s part of who he is; the ways it manifests are influenced by autistic traits, but this nature is inherent in all that is Ben.

I’ve been reading a lot of newsy stuff and I can’t help but feel jaded. There’s still an overwhelming amount of “autism is bad” out there. People go into details about what autism takes away and it’s frustrating to read. It’s like they’re so busy looking for what’s not there, they don’t see what is: a person, a unique person who is doing the best he or she can to exist in a world that wasn’t made with his or her needs in mind. Parents seem so flummoxed that they didn’t get their mini-me, they’re lost when it comes to seeing, being aware of the person their child really is.

I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Why do parents get so stuck on having the child they want—something they have no control over, something that few parents ever really get—that they miss out on the child they have? This isn’t really an autism thing, either. Some parents want their children to grow up to be doctors, but the children would rather be artists. Some parents want their children to marry and have babies, but the children are perpetual bachelors or bachelorettes or—gasp!—they may even be gay. Why is it that so many parents try to force their children—unique people who are very much themselves—into some kind of mold that doesn’t really fit? Whether it’s driving your child crazy with your lust for vicarious football glory or trying to make your autistic child normal, how do they justify it?

Is it really so hard to respect the little people in your care?