“Parenting is just God’s way of teaching us humility.” --Anne Kennedy
Presently, I have two adolescents in my house who are on the autism spectrum. And we haven’t had a quiet day since August when we were staying in my parents’ house which is larger than ours so there are more places to hide and not bother each other. Usually, our year has more ebb and flow to it, but 2018 has felt like life was turned up to 11 without a bathroom break.
I have struggled the most with my daughter, who just turned 12 but is wearing the body of 15 year old without the necessary maturity. So we fight about clothes (I worry about the neckline while, this year, she refused anything with flowers and a color lighter than navy). We fight about appropriate viewing content (movies are so passe; if it’s not on YouTube, it doesn’t interest her). We fight about chores (she doesn’t feel the need to contribute a single ounce of effort towards the upkeep of the house and I point out that since she’s not paying rent, she is required to help). We fight about books (I read 4-5 books a week and she has to be forced to read something for 100 minutes a week as a part of her language arts weekly homework assignments and for most of last year wouldn’t read anything without zombies in it; as you can imagine, most zombie stories do not have content appropriate for intermediate school students). But the thing we fight about most is how she feels like she never fits in.
Now this, this I remember, from being twelve. Both her father and I had a hard time making friends, especially at this age. We were both too smart to be popular and obnoxious enough to irritate almost everyone. Our bodies grew faster than we wanted them too and for the ladies in my gene pool, clinical depression comes along with the hormones.
But I have found that this year, my memories of the misery of adolescence has been an asset to my parenting skills. I can remember exactly how she is feeling when she is completely discouraged by her ineffectual efforts to fit in. I can talk her through the depths of depression because it is a familiar path. I can agree with her when homework assignments seem idiotic and apologize that she has to do them anyway. And I can love her through the whole process because I never completely forget she is my precious daughter. Not every moment is perfect, but I can go back to her when I screw up and ask for forgiveness.
Of course, my experience in parenting brings God’s love for me into even greater relief. God loves me because of who he is, not who I am or anything I’ve done to try to earn his love. God doesn’t give up when I’ve chased my own agenda, ignoring his counsel. God doesn’t give up when I harbor unforgiveness. Nor does he brush me off when I ask for the millionth time, “Why do my children have autism?” “Because the world is broken,” is his regular answer, and his unconditional love for me and my children continues.
So, God loves me and helps me to love my daughter, reminding me that parenting is about love first and then direction. And, honestly, speaking to a know-it-all twelve year old girl helps me not to be the 43 year old know-it-all woman I would be if God didn’t love me first. Most of the time.