I tried a new cereal for breakfast today. It was really just a slightly different version of my regular cereal: Flax Plus – The Sequel (aka: TNG). At first I was worried it would be too sweet, and I had to deliberately make bridge-like cognitive connections to my usual cereal so that I was focused on the similarities and ready to overlook the obvious and unsettling differences. I am a creature of habit.
This is okay – it will only be a little bit sweeter, chimed in my self-talk as I added extra flax and a tiny hand-full of 8 raw almonds. I got myself ready to eat the crunchy little granola-looking bits, that I imagined to be stuck together with great blobs of some sort of sugary binder.
Ready (finally) …I dug in.
Sadly, it did not meet my expectations. Strangely, it was not sweet enough. My paradigm had shifted. I had imagined sweet and I was thus prepared – but that is not what I got!
It didn’t give me the same wholesome feeling as Flax Plus – TOS – and then as well, it was disappointingly less saccharine than the anticipated Captain Crunch or a sneaky post-Halloween childhood breakfast of pixie-sticks and sticky wax-wrapped candies. I actually felt kind of cheated and mad which was, of course, completely unreasonable.
Sometimes you just get what you get… and right about then is usually a good time to laugh at myself for trying to control the world. Sometimes the universe, disguised as something as innocuous as cereal, steps in and gives me a gentle nudge and reminds me that I am not in charge. I will openly admit that I am a sucker for metaphorical thinking, but really – stay with me and I will try to come full circle here.
There is a link between handling my unexpected cereal fiasco and parenting a child on the Autism spectrum. Craig and I can work and prepare ourselves and our son for something – and the skills of resiliency, positive self-talk, and flexible thinking that we are modeling and teaching our son are really what he needs from us. However, no matter how prepared we think we are, there is always be something unexpected around the corner that we were unable to foresee. These unanticipated circumstances test us and our boy daily: the world comes at H unevenly and his responses can seem uneven as well.
And all of this is okay, because we cannot anticipate every situation. Sometimes things go sideways… and sometimes the event or situation is a gift that warms us to the core for days – kind of like finding an amazing prize in a cereal box.
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)