This is probably something that we all feel but no one talks about. So I’m going to write about it in the hope it makes one or two of you feel better.
We all want to spend time with our children. Meaningful time, where we engage with them in an interest and really build that bond where we share attention and focus on the same object, activity or game. Ever since I can remember this has been one of our biggest challenges. We not only contend with autism, and our child’s very specific way of thinking, but also his ADHD which provides us with a window of perhaps 1 minute in which we are able to hold his focus in tune with ours.
When we get it, it’s pure magic. Let me give you an example. Kiddo adores playdoh and lately his love for the programme PJ Masks (which incidentally he has never watched on tv, only seen snippets on you tube, because that’s enough for him) has surfaced again. He wants us to help him make a blue Cat Boy figure, a green Gheko and a red Owlette. Overjoyed that he has taken the decision to include us as parents we dive straight in and help him, so grateful for the opportunity to be part of his world. And he asks us to do the same again. And again. And it is here that once again our world’s separate and our brains, both so different yet so beautiful, divert away from the same goal that we once both cherished.
Kiddo needs repetition. He enjoys it, he is absorbed by it. He finds joy and interest in repeating the same activity again and again. My neurotypical brain needs to be stimulated in a completely different way. It’s not my fault, it’s just how it is built. Repetition leads to boredom. Boredom leads to frustration. And it’s here that if we are not careful, our relationship as mother and son could crumble. But I won’t let it.
I recognise my needs are so different to kiddo’s. There’s nothing wrong with that, our brains are both wired completely differently. But in order for me to enjoy his company, his interests and his world, I must somehow be able to preserve my brain to be able to tolerate the level of repetition he so very much craves. So I do something that most parents would look upon in complete disgust. I use my phone. I use my iPad. I read a magazine. I keep my brain ticking over so that I can enjoy my child’s company while he is at his most comfortable.
When he asks for my help, I immediately drop what I’m doing (usually reading or editing photos for an Instagram post). He knows I’m there and I’m ready for what he needs. I embrace those moments with him where he asks for my help or attention, and then I divert it back to what I was doing so that I can stay in that environment for as long as possible.
So many people would say this is neglect or selfish behaviour. They’re wrong. After several years I am confident to say that now. Why? Because I am happy to sit there and play whatever kiddo wants. I don’t get bored, frustrated or moan that I just can’t stand to write the word “Disney” one more time. I’ve learnt how to engage that part of my brain that kiddo doesn’t need as much whilst he is temporarily focused on something else.
People wonder why I’m always chatting to them on my phone. Because I need conversation, I need that social interaction. Kiddo doesn’t, he is so happy in his world and I am privileged to be let in when he opens the door to me. People may notice that I go from talking to just not answering messages. Those are the times my child has asked for my attention, and he damn well has it.
So if you see a mum (or Dad or carer) who is on social media a lot, or who is sat reading whilst her child plays, reserve your judgement. It’s a survival technique, a way to preserve her energy and keep herself relaxed and happy. It’s not neglect, it’s the complete opposite. It’s love in its purest form.
Thanks for reading,