“This is a hard situation”, I said to my kid.
“Yes, this is a hard situation”, kid replied.
This is a dialogue that took place a couple of days ago, when my child was upset. The lines probably don’t look like anything special, but the exact lines we used (which weren’t in English) were actually a quote from a children’s book that we read a lot for several years, and this quote has a special meaning to us. It’s hard for me to see my kid upset, just like it’s probably hard for my kid to be upset, and a couple of years ago I found it difficult to know what to say and do in these situations. At one point, when I realized that my efforts to comfort him were just making him feel worse, this phrase came to mind. Over the years, this phrase has developed to a mutual script that means that I recognize that my child is having a hard time but I will remain calm and not try to fix it or comfort him until he comes to me and tell me he’s ready to be comforted or for me to do something to practically help him.
People who hear us use this phrase seem to think that it’s a cute thing I do to help my kid. What they don’t realize is that having a mutual script is just as much about helping me, because I find it easier to remain calm when I know what to say. I don’t get caught in his feelings and it’s a great way to not get overwhelmed myself. When I stay calm, I’m a much better help to my child.
To me, this is what autistic parenting of an autistic child is about. Instead of me feeling guilty for not being able to immediately comfort my kid (who might not even want comfort right away), I do what I need to do to help myself be a good, autistic parent. I don’t try to become a non-autistic parent, just as the help I’m providing for my child isn’t aiming at making him less autistic. I do my best to provide the love, support and help for us to have meaningful lives, where we feel as good as possible as the autistic people we are.