THE GOOD FIGHT

It is an unfortunate reality that there is some conflict in our home now and then. It might be a meltdown from anxiety, sensory overload, or perseverative thinking.

Those are the conflicts that Autism Dad and I have worked hard to educate ourselves and to work with the Navigator as best we can to meet his needs.

It doesn’t always go well. Sometimes we fail — we fail to anticipate patterns that can lead to conflict; or we fail to respond in the correct way to the actual trigger; or we fail to be patient which can aggravate the conflict.

Success or failure, those conflicts frequently leave me feeling uncertain because I am often not sure I have fully met the Navigator’s needs.

But now and then there are the conflicts that I was prepared for when I decided to become a parent, the kinds of fights that I had with my parents, the ones that pit expanding growth and maturity against parental experience and decision-making authority.

The Navigator is in a complicated place in his life — his interests and raw intelligence mean that he leans towards things above his age level, but his developmental maturity and experience are not at the same level.

In other words, he wants to play computer games with realistic dinosaurs, which are only really found in older teen-oriented games. And he is not a teen.

While we review the games and check on him regularly to make sure his play is appropriate for him, his exposure to them means he wants to play the same way the teens playing do.

The other day he announced that he wanted to start interacting personally with the other players on a particular game — using a microphone so he could talk with other players during the games.

“You guys would have to knock before you came in the office so that the other players wouldn’t hear my mom and dad in the middle of the game.”

Needless to say, Autism Dad and I were both absolutely against it — we were concerned that once he lost the age-anonymity he has now while playing online, he might be in greater danger of bullying and predatory behavior from others when they realized how young he was from his voice.

“I could make my voice deep,” he offered a little desperately.

When it became clear that we would not change our minds, he grew very angry with us.

“It is our job to protect you,” I explained after three days of frustrated outbursts. “When you are a parent you will make the same kinds of decisions for your kids.”

“I am going to be a way better parent than you are,” he said angrily.

“I hope you are!” I answered cheerfully, surprising the heck out of him. “If you can find a way to shoulder the responsibility, keep your kids safe, and raise them to be great members of society, and find a better way of doing it, we will be very happy for you.”

It felt good to experience parental decision-making that was bright-line. We are always fighting the good fight for the Navigator — some are easier than others.

Originally published on Autism Mom February 2016.

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