Being a mom that is. Don't you find that so much of what we teach our kids is shrouded in hypocrisy...do as I say, not as I do! Don't smoke or do drugs, as I tuck my Camel's deeper into my purse. Don't lie, but wait, Santa is real and you better behave for the next 2 months or else you'll get coal. The list goes on and on. But, with that being said, it's done with the best intentions. Of course I have bad habits and if my kids happen to point them out, I of course will tell them to not pick them up themselves...just like with smoking and drugs. I hate that I smoke, especially since I had quit so easily when I was pregnant, but I'm working on it and I definitely don't wish it upon my kids. I also get the Santa thing, I love Christmas and the "spirit" of the season, I'm not saying it's wrong, it is just a fact that most of us are hypocrites.
That leads me into my latest conundrum of hypocrisy, and it lies with The Stin. Raising a child with Aspergers is a task, to say the least. I scream, I cry, I coerce, I bribe, I set up consequences and I set up rewards all for little input and small incremental achievements that seem to be erased quickly with the blink of an eye. We're good, we're good, we're good, I tell him I'm proud of him, we're back at square one. That's how it goes and I kinda know why, but that doesn't make it any easier. Lately we have really been trying to work on the "friends" stuff and that is where the true struggle with my hypocrisy has come to the forefront.
It's a fine line we walk, a thin string--hell, dental floss--that we toe every day and with lots of insight from groups, the Internet and professionals the consensus is pretty clear. Our goal is to help The Stin "fit in". Now at first glance, that can make sense...it did to me. Of course we want his peers to think he's "normal," so they will want to hang out with him, and he will begin to build the friendships I know he wants so badly. But with that comes the hypocrisy-aren't we as parents supposed to support our kids individuality, let them be who they will be and be their safe place to land? Isn't that what most of us strive for. If The Ster went goth, I would cringe and cry at night but I would probably help her dye her hair and tell her how beautiful she is, while folding her black clothes...but with The Stin, it's different. Most kids who flex their independent muscles, get that they are being different, that is a lot of what motivates them. They want to buck the system or get under their parents skin or simply are choosing to not follow the crowd. Not so with The Stin. He is very clueless to the social groups that are forming and his "different" is of no choice to him, it is just simply him. He has the humor of a young child and The Ster only helps to validate that behavior...because if his almost 3 year old sister thinks it's funny then it will certainly kill with the middle school boys...right? This is how he thinks.
I read a lot of posts on Facebook about wanting to put our children in a little protective bubble to keep them safe and protect them from all the bad stuff. With The Stin, I feel like he came out in a steel bubble that I am standing at with a sewing needle, trying to pop. Not because I want him to be unprotected or unsafe, but simply because I want him to be able to live. I want him to feel things, true emotions. I want him to understand the bad with the good. I want him to learn lessons. I want him to understand that everyone is not his friend and that there are people out there that are not nice and I want him to be able to recognize this stuff so he IS safe, because the reality of it is...a bubble won't protect him, he has to learn how to protect himself. That is what I want for him, I want him to be able to stick up for himself and protect himself. But teaching this lesson, without it slowly coming naturally or even the little we do usually have to teach, not sinking in-ever, is far more scary to me and a lot harder than I could ever have anticipated. I want him to be able to experience life as "normally" as possible. Letting him live in his little bubble could actually do more harm, be unsafe and set him up to never truly be able to experience the ups and downs that we call life and that helps us become who we are.
What is so hard, is that the lessons aren't prompted, like they are with most children. Today The Ster came up to me crying because one of her friends said they wouldn't be her best friend...she's almost 3, and this little girl has happily accepted in the past. The Ster just keeps asking, so a lesson could be taught..."she already said she would be your best friend so there is no reason to be so sad. You don't need to ask her anymore, just remember that she already said she would be your best friend. It's hard for her to play with you when you are crying. Lets stop crying or you won't be able to play with your best friend" Crying stopped, lesson learned-well until the next time we see them and she asks again, but at that moment it seemed to sink in and they were off and playing again. But she's 3! 3! I may have to go through this again, but did I mention she's 3, and I know that she'll get it. I don't get those moments with The Stin, because frankly he wouldn't ask and if he did, the answer wouldn't bother him. He would politely make up a reason in his head as to why they said no and just ask again later or just make an assumption later, without ever asking again. The Stin's greatest gift is his inability to understand when people are being rude/mean to him and his worst enemy is his inability to understand when people are being rude/mean to him. When he leaves messages on friends phones to hang out, and no one calls back, he always has an excuse or assumption as to why they didn't call. This might be OK the first time or two, but we are about two years into this behavior and it has never dawned on him that maybe these kids just don't want to hang out with him...and there it is. What has he done, has he done anything, how do I find out, how do I approach it, how do I correct it, should I correct it???? Welcome to my mind.
Then don't forget the fact that The Don and I are probably considered strict, or lame, or both. He doesn't have a Facebook account, he is not allowed to play Call of Duty or games rated M, he doesn't have a cell phone...I know we're awful, huh. This is where the true struggle comes in! I will not compromise these rules. I believe in them. The Ster will have the same rules, but it sure throws a wrench in our problem when all the other kids seem to be allowed to do/have these things. It's funny how the hypocrisy branches out...our ped psychiatrist told us that we should get The Stin a cell phone, because boys his age communicate better via text. What? I get it, but shouldn't we focus on getting him good at the conversational communication before we insert a crutch, like texting. Isn't that why we take him to your social skills group, so he can get comfortable with starting conversations and actually talking to kids?
Don't get me wrong, he does get ahold of kids once in a while and hanging out does occur. It's just few and far between. The Don and I can only be hypocrites, and make the assumptions we tell him not to make, that the kids can take The Stin in small doses. His teachers insist that he gets along with everyone, he seems to joke and talk to kids on his soccer and baseball teams. We know that the kids don't hate him, it's just like he's on everyones "B-list". They get along with him, he might be a little annoying sometimes but overall he's a nice kid, but when it comes to actually hanging out, he's not top of mind...for anyone.
So here we are. I've wrapped myself around being a hypocrite, I've come to terms that I have created some of my own obstacles, with our rules, but those stay so where now? All I know is that I want him to make friends, I want him to fit in. I do. I said it. Scorn me if you must, but let's be honest, don't we all want our kids to fit in to some degree? I'm not declaring which crowd I want him to hang with, I am just declaring that I want him to find a crowd...that isn't committing felonies or getting expelled from school, so I guess I have some parameters...hypocrite? The truth of the matter is, I don't know if there is a crowd at The Stins age level that he will fit in with. That's the struggle.
So to social skills group we go. Role playing occurs. Lot's of questions and probing on conversations. Lots of supplying conversation starters before school. Lots of repeating. Role playing. Lots of questions and probing on conversations...did I mention lots of repeating. All we can do is keep drilling holes in our Corkstin and hope that some of it soaks in. With all this being said and a lot of it possibly coming across harsh, I love my Stin. I love his sweet nature, I love the big brother he is to The Ster, I love that he wants to have friends, I love that he reads and reads and reads and enjoys school, I love that he gives everyone the benefit of the doubt...I just feel like I need to help teach him some "reality", which ultimately might change some of these wonderful traits, to help build the social skills he "needs" to be "normal" in middle school, and our society....and that is the true hypocrisy of it all.