We got a gift this last weekend. A whole weekend with no kids! Just the two of us! It was the first time in a really long time. Really long time.
On Saturday, we went to a concert at maybe the most beautiful amphitheater in the world. On Sunday, we went on a hike in the woods along a river. Both days were highlights of our year, no doubt. It was almost like we backed up the clock about 14 years.
It reminded me of how important it is to take a break once in a while. As an autism parent, it’s hard to take a break.
If you’re a parent with an autistic child, you’re the one that knows best all the quirks, ins, and outs. You know how to navigate your day, sun up to sundown. If anyone else were at the reins, there might be disaster. It’s OK. Don’t let that stop you from taking a break. And if you have a partner in this endeavor, shut the rest of life off and enjoy their presence.
Jamie and I have have taken years to learn this lesson. We work so hard at parenting, and don’t want to lose any ground. We make progress, small steps at a time. And when we make progress, there’s little time to update any other caregivers of the subtle nuances. So when an opportunity to take a break comes, it’s easy to pass it up because of the overwhelming feeling that being away from your child might be a setback in progress. You have to forget that notion. You have to take a break.
Remember, if you’re married or have a partner in this, you’re a team. When a team has nothing but scrimmages, sure, they get better at the game. But constant scrimmages doesn’t ever give them time to just be a team, do some fun exercises together, and build on their teamwork.
This last weekend, Jamie and I didn’t have any focus sessions on how to be better parents. In fact, we didn’t really talk about parenting life much at all. We just hung out. We danced together at the concert and skinny-dipped in a cold river in the middle of nowhere. It was precisely the team building that we needed.
When you take a break from parenting, take a real break. Don’t think about autism. Don’t talk about autism. Just be. Be you. Be free. Laugh. Do silly things. Make memories.
If you’re parenting through a challenging situation, the tendency will be to just endure, because nobody knows how to do it better than you. But that’s exhausting. If you want to be the best parent possible, taking a break will give you the energy boost you need to keep running in tip-top form. The biggest reason to not take a break is that you want to keep pushing a be the best parent you can be and provide for your child the best they need. But if you’re serious about providing the best care for your child, you absolutely have to let go for a moment and get rejuvenated.
When you hand off your child or children to other caregivers, it might come at a cost. They might keep them up too late, feed them gluten or dairy, let them watch Stranger Things, or any other thing you’ve tried to avoid over the years. It’s OK. Stuff is gonna happen. It’s alright.
We’ve found that even when stuff goes a little different than we’d hoped, the revitalization that happens in the two of us is worth the cost. The lost ground is easier to make up than you think. And when the dust settles, you’ll look back on the break not as a setback for your child, but a boost to your ability to ensure the best family dynamic possible.
I sorta said the same thing a few times there. You get the gist of it. Take a break. It’s important. If you need further proof, try it out.