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Darkness and light - parenting an adult aspie

Being an adult child with aspergers is just that sometimes - being an adult child. It seems very difficult to demand, or plead, or explain to your parent why you must be thought of in a certain way and then, later, also expect to be treated as an independent adult.

It matters little whether the parent themselves has any aspie tendencies or if the rest of their family, past and present, were also affected. What matters most is that you were their child and are their child and that's how it always will be.

Of course, this is similar in most parent-child relationships as there will always be a part of the childhood relationship lodged deep within the present day. But it does seem to be exacerbated if the adult child has aspergers.

You may, like me, have spent many years trying to plow your own furrow, often living life in a way very different from the lifestyle chosen by your parents. The generations do differ but if you have an aspie frame of mind too, then it's very likely you've had to accommodate your lifestyle to suit it, whether you realise it at the time or only later, with hindsight.

Your parent will have watched you grow into an adult who seemed to shun responsibility, while often making proclamations to the opposite effect. How often have I left one job only to decide the next one will be the one that I stay with, that will help me pay the bills and enjoy work and give me whatever the others could not?

At first, when I was just out of school, I was keen to build a career and my mother was very proud when I found a job in the civil service. A nice, solid career with proper advancement, there for life (or so it was in those days) and a real pension! Also, it would use that brain of mine, which had only seemed to be interested in writing stories so far.

It was a good fit, then. I enjoyed it until my boss moved on and she was replaced with someone much more rigid and who resented younger members of staff. She picked up on every little quirk of my personality and only ever saw what I did less than perfectly. I soon moved on.

Each time I moved to the next job, my mother was disappointed and worried and had to hope that this new one would be different. She was very pleased when I did my degree course as that would lead to a real career and, again, was using my brains. Also, I was the first one in the family to do a degree, so she was extra proud of that.

What did I do, though? Well, I did thoroughly enjoy my degree course. I would have stayed in the education system longer if I could have afforded it. But then I married and had children and, horrors, decided to be a stay-at-home mum.

This was something I had always wanted to do and I considered it the real work in my life, as compared to the pretence of work that pushing papers seemed to be. High ideals but no money!

My mother was proud of me being a parent and of the way I raised my children, but she still held hopes that I would return to work once they were old enough and, finally, create something of a career for myself.

Again and again, over the years, there has been this cycle of going out into the world and following a normal path for a very short time - raising my mother's hopes - then leaving that path and doing my own thing once more.

Each time, she has been frustrated and worried in equal measure, not knowing what I could do or what she could do that would make me behave like a real person, one who understood that life held responsibilities and you couldn't always be doing just what you wanted.

I remember watching a TV show called 'Jam and Jerusalem'. The main character is a warm, sensible woman in her late 50s whose daughter and grandson live with her. The daughter is a hippy type with lots of dreams who seems to be living as a teenager while her mother does everything.

In one episode, the daughter is excitedly explaining to her mother about a circus skills training course and how she plans to do it as she's always wanted to join a circus, it's what she was meant to do. Her mother interrupts her, finally at the end of her tether and shouts, 'But you're 36! You can't join the circus at 36!'

I watched it and I could see how this part was meant to be funny but it was too uncomfortably familiar for me. Yes, the daughter was 36, but I could fully understand that feeling of wanting to do something you had held dear for many years, without realising how much time had passed and how life is meant to change with that passage of time.

When does it happen? This brief moment of life, after school and before everything gets really serious, that's when we're meant to have the maturity and the need to garner ourselves a proper career and a real, true path in life. Then we work on it and build up our foundations so that by the time we reach the age of 36, we would no more join the circus than dance on the chimney tops.

The dreaming aspie must be a nightmare child for so many parents who look at the person who used to be a distracted or ultra-focussed teenager, who then grew into an adult and carried on ageing, before their very eyes, without ever putting down proper roots or building a steady, secure life for themselves.

You can imagine the worry and turmoil this must cause. No amount of explaining the aspie point of view or difficulties can wish away the practical fact that, to succeed in life, you need to be good at living it a certain way.

In my case, my mother often vented her anger at me, explosively, angrily, full of frustration that I couldn't be a little more grown up, that I would always be struggling as I was. It's only in the latter years, when her own health has given her problems, that she's gained a new perspective.

In a genuine and remarkable way, I think she finally accepts that she has a dippy, distracted daughter who is going to (metaphorically) want to join the circus. In fact, with aspergers, let's face it, the circus is always in town.

It's a relief to me to know that her support is no longer feigned or forced, that she isn't biting back the words that she hopes will fix me or snap me out of it or bring me back to the real world. She has finally realised this whole melee of thoughts, feelings, dreams and madness is my reality, and, by default, hers too.

In a way, I think she has truly realised the other side of the aspie coin. We do cause problems and worry people, not least ourselves. We do mess up and miss out, we do all these things and more, over and over again. But we also stop to smell the roses.

Over the years, amongst all the problems and hardships and the times when she and I both thought I had really done it this time, I have been able to stop and get off and admire the view. It's an important part of the aspie consciousness, to be able to depart, even briefly, and touch that other side of life.

The fleeting, beautiful nature of life is always apparent to me and I want to see those moments. I have little interest in the practical nature of existence, even though it is so important. I need to be able to stop and see what that tiny speck of light shows me, just behind the paper on the ground.

I need to hesitate on my way, bend, stoop, my hand hovering over it, entranced by the light dancing and the paper edging against the wind as though, at any moment, it will be carried away and I'll lose the secret forever.

I think, this past couple of years, my mother found some secrets of her own and gained new insight into her awkward, mystifying daughter who, maddeningly, would lose track of life and be found, staring happily into the distance.

I'm blessed to know this new relationship with my mother and I feel she is blessed also, to understand me more than she did before. It goes both ways between us, the knowledge that life is ever-changing and full of opportunity to learn fresh new ways of looking at the same old thing.

You see, readers, nothing ever stays the same, even when we think it does.


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