I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and good days since my last post, in which I reflected on Hamza’s Bismillah and the week afterwards with our family and Lil D, about being grateful for all that went well while still feeling unhappy about all Lil D missed. I am wondering that by the constant pursuit of “better good days,” am I hindering myself from appreciating what is good and peaceful about the moments at hand?
Is there a danger in comparing good experiences with better ones when it comes to special needs parenting?
One of the first things autism parents come to realize after receiving their child’s autism spectrum diagnosis is that comparison is a dangerous game. As the old adage goes, if you’ve met one autistic child, you’ve met one autistic child. No two are alike, no two react to therapies the same; no two react to medical or biomedical treatments the same. Each child, and his/her story and journey, is unique.
We all want tend to compare our special needs children at first. At least I did. This type of therapy worked for their child, and their child seem to be similar to ours on the spectrum, so our child should benefit from the same thing. Or, their child, who has a lot of the same autistic traits as our child, is making progress in school or is responding well to that supplement. How come our child is not?
Soon enough, I learned that comparisons were only served to make me miserable. The trick is to take the experiences of other autism families, learn from them (what other therapies are out there, what doctors others are seeing, what medical tests are other parents getting for their kids, what’s the latest research being shared, what should we expect from our schools), and then make a decision whether or not to try these things with your own child, knowing that your child’s results will be unique to him/her.
In that same vein, I figure that comparing good days with better good days is a delicate balance that can get thrown off track, unless I am careful. The thing to do, I hope, is to appreciate each good moment and good day and savor the happiness, but to know that it’s ok to want more.
Danisul, a commentator to my post on “In Autism Land, What is a Good Day?” wrote,
“It is not bad to want better good days or more good days. It just means you want your son to be happy! There is nothing wrong with that; that is not being “ungrateful.” These behaviors (which my 18yr old son also engages in) are communicating something (or a variety of things). It has taken me a long time to appreciate and savor (even celebrate) each good moment, while putting the difficult ones into a different place – we deal with those days / moments and move on. Sometimes it can be a long wait for the positive moment; during those periods, we remember the previous good days and work hard to solve the current issue. We are always pushing for more, better, good days. Why wouldn’t we? Everyone wants the best for their children. Parents of children with autism are no different.”
Often I am grateful for the comments posted on my blog – they give me different perspectives and insight, they show me that we are not alone in our autism life, or they assure me that it’s ok to feel the way I am feeling and not to beat myself up.
Danisul makes a great point – that appreciating and savoring each good moment, while putting the difficult ones in a different place in our mind, is the key. Why wouldn’t we always push for better good days? “We always want the best for [our] children,” Danisul writes.
One other commentator, Elizabeth V., warned me, “It doesn’t help neurotypical kids to behave well when a parent is overcritical and unhappy, how that can be useful for autistic ones???? Take one day at the time and focus and the possitive [sic].”
Initially I was taken aback by her comment, but I see her point, too: When good days are happening, be happy about it and focus on the positive. Of course we are human, and we remember better times and hope for them to return (or strive for them to come). But, if I let the sheen of the good days grow dull and lackluster by not appreciating them and constantly yearning for better good days, then I (and my family) am the loser.
I don’t think I was fully in danger last week of losing perspective (meaning, unmindful of what we have to be grateful about). And I don’t think there is anything wrong in being cognizant of what we’ve had in the past with Lil D and wanting to get back to that place again – and go even further. Thanks to the constant support around me, I have tried to remain aware of our blessings and mindful of Allah’s grace in all of this.
He knows Lil D’s life’s plan better than me, and though it is difficult (to say the least) for me to accept His will from time to time, that is — I guess — what it means to have faith.
So thank Allah for the good days, like today, when Lil D went back to summer school, and it seemed to go well. And, I was able to take my other kids to the library and the pool and out to lunch and all those things they’ve wanted to do with me.