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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye to 2015

In some ways, I'm fairly happy to say goodbye to 2015.  However, that's mostly based on just one month of it, from mid May until mid June, with Janey's burst appendix and long hospitalization.  The rest of the year was...fair to middling.  In some ways, if you leave out the horrible month, it wasn't a bad year.  Thinking back, most of the big changes were changes in our attitudes and approaches to Janey, not really external changes.

After Janey's time in the hospital, she was very weak.  The most important thing was to get her healthy, get her eating and drinking and moving around and well.  When that happens, when you are stripped down to the basics of life, I think some things become clear.  We were not thinking about things like establishing firm routines, or working on communication, or building skills.  We were working on keeping Janey from winding up back in the hospital.  We were helping her gain back the huge amount of weight she'd lost.  We were watching her for infections.  The autism became an footnote, a minor concern.

Keeping Janey happy, helping her heal, we did all we could to minimize the time that Janey spent crying or upset.  And we realized something---that if we kept Janey happy as much as possible, life was easier for all of us.  If we did the little things she liked, we spent far less time trying to calm her down, trying to fix an hour or day that had gone awry.  With that realization, the last half of 2015 featured a lot of good days.

It seems so simple---keep her happy.  But it took a change in our attitude.  It wasn't like we didn't always want her to be happy, but until this year, I think we felt that it was important to make our stands, to not "give in" whenever possible. We aren't terribly strict parents, but we were always fairly firm about no meaning no, about keeping things fair and not bending our plans or routines because of tantrums or anger or begging.  And to some extent, that is how we were parenting Janey.  It had worked pretty well with the boys.  But, as we came to realize, Janey is different.

And so, we say yes to Janey much more often than no, now.  We do things pre-emptively.  If she wants a car ride, unless it's impossible, we give her one.  If she doesn't like music that is playing, we change it.  If she asks for something to eat, and we have the food, we make it.  If she wants a shower, even though she's just had a shower, I give her one.  If she wants us to snuggle her, we snuggle her.

Of course, if what Janey wants is to bite us, or throw food on the floor, or break things, or not wear shoes to school, or any number of other things along those lines, we are still firm.  But we've realized---if we start with "yes" as our default answer to the limited amount of wants and wishes Janey can express, there is far less biting or breaking or throwing.

The parenting books, the common wisdom---those would tell you that "giving in" to a child, doing what they want, will create a brat.  And I think that is true, with a typical child.  But Janey isn't typical.  She isn't able to think about WHY we say no or yes.  She doesn't understand the reasons for no, and she doesn't understand the reasons for yes, either.  So she doesn't project, doesn't think "Gee, I can get away with anything!  I just have to ask!"  any more than saying no makes her think "Wow, they really mean it!  I might as well realize I'm just not going to get what I want by begging!"  She understands happy and she understands sad, and she likes happy better.  We like her happy better.  It's pretty much as simple as that.

So---I will sign off for 2015.  I hope that the new year brings all of you happiness.  I'm off to drink a cup of kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne.  I'll raise a glass to all of you, with love.


Sabrina Steyling said...

Happy New Year Suzanne, Tony, William, Freddy, and Janey! It's been an interesting year, and I thank you for sharing it with me and all of us who follow your blog. I am wishing 2016 to be a calm and happy year, for all of you!

Mary Leonhardt said...

I love this post, Suzanne. It shows so much perceptiveness and wisdom.