There are so many things that parents dread. In fact, a poll taken this month by the Israeli business publication I work for, TheMarker, recently asked, "What is more stressful: spending time with the kids, or attending a board meeting?" This question reveals a lot about the absurdity of modern life.
As it turns out, the participants in the poll were mostly sane. The biggest stress in life comes, they say, from work (30.5% of the participants). But then again, the second biggest cause of stress was the need to balance work and family (29.7%). So maybe sane-but-neurotic would be a better description of that crowd.
What that poll shows is that even good things, like wanting to spend time with the children, cause stress for parents. As the parent of a child with autism, I discovered a peculiar thing: Many things that cause stress, or at least some annoyance, to other parents are causes for joy or at least satisfaction for us, special parents.
Let's start with prejudice: My son is now two months into the school year. He's integrated in a regular public kindergarten after four years in special ed. Everything is going pretty well so far. But the other day, my son came home and told me that girls are "yucky." I spent some incredulous minutes interrogating him. Does he not like his female friends anymore? Oh, he does. Does he think I'm "yucky" because I'm a girl? Oh, no, he assured me, "mom, you're the best thing." Nonetheless, he stuck by that claim he had picked up from his buddies in school. So, with a smile, I let him go off with his age-appropriate, male bonding misogyny.
We can explore some pride issues: When I took him to the dentist for the first time, my son wouldn't open his mouth, a potential embarrassment. He was sitting in my lap, and after a while, when he realized there was no escape, he started to shout. Since I knew he had no sensory or touch issues, I took it as an expression of social protest against the establishment and responded accordingly.
"Go, go!" I urged the doctor. "It's money time." And she stuck her head into that big shouting mouth, did her routine and assured me his teeth were in excellent shape.
Of course they're in an excellent shape, since even now, when he's 6, he doesn't brush them appropriately; I do it for him. I have an excuse, don't I? And his teeth are still pearly white and without a blemish.
There is also that fateful moment in a parent's life when their child learns the phrase "buy me..." Well, when your child is a bit out of step with the world, consumerism comes later in life than usual, which is not a bad thing, I guess. But the real joy comes when you hear the first "buy me an ice cream." At this point, when your child catches up with the materialist desires and weaknesses of regular people, you are willing to kneel down and worship the nearest brand logo you can find. "Yay, my child just asked me to spend money on some unhealthy nonsense!"
Last, but not least -- and I consider this a Nobel award-worthy novelty (at least as worthy as the European Union's Nobel prize) -- is an idea based on one of the worst habits for children: eating in front of the TV. My son, like quite a few autistic children, has a very powerful visual processing capability. So when he watches television, he is not just fascinated; he's nearly hypnotized. During that hypnosis, he eats without really paying attention to what he is putting in his mouth (I know, that happens with almost all the children). So I take the precious few hours of TV that I allow him on weekends, and set bowls of salad and fruit in front of him. The vitamins, fiber and nutrients are quickly vacuumed, fish hook and line, to my uttermost satisfaction.