Most people can’t comprehend what it is like to live with an 18-year-old daughter with autism. When I tell my bizarre stories, some look at me with shock, others with disbelief, others with a blank face, and some with concern.
Right now, it’s all about control. Natalie can’t control the fact that she has autism, so she gravitates towards what she can control: her eating patterns, her grooming, her bathing, hurting her body, her sleep schedule, and the list goes on. She is very manipulative and strives to get everyone to do what she wants. She continues to resist any kind of authority including teachers, parents, and God. It is interesting that if an authority figure shows her kindness, understanding, and love, most times she gives up her grip of control.
She said something last week that stunned me. She said, “Everyone has to worship me.” She wanted caring friends so badly in her life, that she misconstrued friendliness and affection for the word worship. I explained to her how we only worship God, not people. Usually, she resists talk of God, but in this instance, she didn’t. She just doesn’t get the whole social scene.
About once a month or more, a group of girls will take her out for the afternoon to talk, play games, and show Natalie some love and fun. I am thankful for the girls that took Natalie out one afternoon this week during spring break. It got her out of her bedroom and gave me a chance to get away from my caretaking role for a few hours.
My goal during spring break was to go all week without complaining about autism. I think that I did pretty well. I had my hard moments with her on my skin for an hour or more, but I was eventually able to find an escape route and redirect her attention off of me. I have tried to keep her on a sleeping schedule all week, but it didn’t go so well. When she goes back to school on Monday, we’ll see if she can make it out of bed at 6:30 am.
If I had my way, I would have double the amount of energy and time that I have now. I would invest it in trying to help Natalie live a more normal lifestyle. Until she gives up her grip of control and makes peace with her dad for being an authority figure in her life, she will continue to lock herself in her room whenever he is around. This is no way to live, but it’s the way she chooses, the path of unforgiveness, bitterness, and hatred. Some of it is unintentional due to her misperceptions about life in general. Part of it is intentional as she chooses not to forgive or submit to her dad’s authority.
I will continue to write about autism. It is good to journal my everyday life so that others can get a glimpse of what it is like to parent a teen with autism. I know that God hasn’t forgotten about Natalie and is working in her heart and in her brain, even if at times I cannot see it. It is so reassuring that I don’t parent alone, for God is her Father, her Heavenly Father, and tenderly cares for her in ways that I can’t. He has His Almighty Hand on her life and this gives me peace and rests in spite of the storm of autism that we live in on a daily basis.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us (on Natalie), that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I John 3:1)
A special Thank you to all who’ve shared about their journey with Autism.