I have always been a believer that I am my child’s parent not their friend. As my NT daughter has reached adulthood, I am slowly stepping from the always parental role into a friend/parent role. Not that we aren’t friends with our children, we play with them, we interact with them, we have fun with them, just like friends, but I always tried to maintain a separate style of relationship until a later time in life.
What I have realized though, for my AU son, I will have to be the friend I never wanted to be. I never wanted to be my child/teen’s friend, but even though we work on social skills, establishing friendships, etc it is just so different than my daughter and her friendships. I have learned that I will be my son’s parent, his caretaker, his schedule coordinator, his advocate, his voice, his counselor and the one thing I never wanted to be his “friend” as a child and teenage years. With all his improvements over the past year he’s starting to emerge into this world, out of his AU world. He’s interacted with his friends this summer in a way he never has before. His friendships are not the type that you and I are familiar with. He doesn’t have young siblings or even cousins that he is close age vicinity too to interact. He interacts with his classmates. But as a 14 year old, he doesn’t use his phone to call and talk to them or even text them – he doesn’t carry on conversations of “how are you” “hey what’s up”, etc – it starts out with side to side activities and eventually interacts between the two (or three). He doesn’t discuss the latest movies or trends. I am the one which he talks to more and that is not often, but progress is being made. I recognize that he and I are buddies – and with this I have to know when to be the parent and when to be the friend, which presents challenges itself at times.
I have really enjoyed going out of his comfort zone this summer and spending time with other AU parents and their kids, who my son considers his friends. I do love hearing his words about his “friends” but when it comes to a true friendship, for now, I am that that friend, the friend, I never wanted to be. The spectrum is so broad and for my son, he has a biological age of 14, about a 3rd grade academic age and a 5-7 year old social and emotional age. It is difficult not only to manage life in these ranges but friendships too.
The AU world brings a lot of challenges and that’s ok, but sometimes, the reality in some areas come out of nowhere, but there are always blessings to be found. His bravery and interactions this summer have been monumental and that I am so grateful and accept that I will be that friend I never wanted to be, at least for now as I watch and help him continue to emerge in life, social skills and learn how to develop and maintain friendships. I also feel very blessed to have a social circle of spectrum families that face similar challenges or are at least understanding about ours.
Here are some more pictures of Tyler and his different friends on different outings.