When My Expectations Don’t Match My Reality

“I think you might be losing sight of the fact that he has an autism spectrum diagnosis. That’s not going away. We need to talk about adjusting your expectations.”

This is what the behavioral pediatrician told me in our appointment last week.

She said it in response to me telling her all the things we were “working on” and all the things that were not going well and all the meltdowns that we wish weren’t part of our life.

Last week was not a great one.

 

It was one of two things that did me in…

1. Hormones (no comment hubby)

2. My Expectations

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Last week, I started off feeling totally overwhelmed by what I perceived as the lack of progress in our life. My son’s sensory system was a jangled mess and his younger brother not reading the word “the” (again) was enough to make me want to go back to bed.

Add to that a major meltdown that erupted in actual punches being thrown at his brother in the post office, plus the lady with way too much make-up that made a very rude comment, and I was certain I had completely failed us – again. I went to bed praying for direction and order and peace. The next day, we had a follow-up appointment with his developmental pediatrician.

God has perfect timing.

When the doctor asked my son to leave the room, I thought she was going to tell me all the things we needed to do next. Instead, she basically said my expectations don’t match my reality.

My son has Autism.

He has severe sensory processing issues that aggravate an already pervasive anxiety disorder.

He will have meltdowns. Period.

He will perseverate on topics for days and weeks at a time. Period.

He will struggle with his body and balance and social function. Period.

Apparently, I am still struggling to fully accept all of this. Apparently, I still need the doctor to confirm a diagnosis that I can so plainly see right in front of me.

And her doing so was an absolute blessing. I walked out of her office in tears…tears of relief and gratitude.

I spent the rest of the week focused on how best to help and love and accept my son, right where he is.

Actually, I spent the rest of the week focused on how best to help and love and accept my life, right where it is.

Expectations, ones that do not match my reality, are suffocating.

Please don’t misunderstand, we should work to make progress. And I was reminded that we have made progress, a ton.

Top 10 Tips for Sensory Kids and Their Parents (2)

When I first walked into that office, over a year ago, I was terrified. My son hadn’t slept in weeks.

He was harming himself, and me, every single day.

I had forgotten how far we’ve come.

When My Expectations Don’t Match My Reality,

we all lose.

Expectations are like that – I get so focused on how I think things should be, that I lose sight of how wonderful they already are.

One year later, he sleeps all the way through the night (well, most of the time). We can actually leave the house and not worry about someone getting hurt in the car. He hasn’t hurt himself in months. He hasn’t hurt me in even longer.

If you had told me a year ago that our current reality is what I could look forward to, I would’ve rejoiced and cried tears of joy.

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Taking a moment

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Our reality is worthy of excellence and praise. So much is lovely and commendable and true. Rather than unrealistic, defeating expectations, I will think about these things.

Two beautiful sons.

A wonderful husband.

Diagnoses that help us know what to do to help.

Therapists that love my boys and genuinely want to invest in them.

A loaf of fresh-baked bread that my little guy helped make.

Spelling the word “the” correctly in today’s school work.

A wonderful book.

The sound of birds chirping in the morning.

Our backyard.

Picking tomatoes.

My son telling me he loves me, without any prompting.

Friends that text me a serious, deep thought and a joke with emojjiis all in the same sentence.

A gentle, loving reminder that this is the life, the only life, I have been given.

Prayers whispered, “May I live it well.”


This post originally appeared on Not The Former Things in 2014.

29 thoughts on “When My Expectations Don’t Match My Reality

      1. This was amazing. You are a strong, wonderful Mom. I have a son with Aspergers, who is also amazing just the way he is. We also work to help him along with therapy and homeschooling with his siblings. I love every minute of it, but doubt myself way too much. He has a twin brother and I have been through very similar situations. You have given me a much needed and wonderful reason to step back and thank God for all of my blessings. May God bless you and your family.

  1. I’m not going through anything like what you’re facing every minute, but I want to thank you for reminding us to be thankful for the good things, even when we’re going through very hard times.

    Do not grow weary of doing good, Sister. You’re an encouragement to many.

    1. Oh my goodness, thank you! I think most of the time, I am reminding myself…I am so encouraged that it helps others too.
      Love,
      Shawna

  2. Thank you once again, that you share your life with us in both good and bad days, you are such an encouragement and blessing. I am always looking foreward to your next post 🙂 it makes me not feeling too lonely with it all.
    May God help us to change what we can change, accept what we can’t change and to know the differens .
    Lovely thought to you 🙂

  3. Oh, now I remember the Quote correctly 🙂
    God, give me:
    courage to change what I can change.
    Strength to accept what I can not change.
    And wisdom to know the difference.
    ( I don’t remember the author )

  4. ::Bawling::

    So I’m not a particularly religious person, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. Thank you! I went through a fairly similar situation a few weeks ago. Sending love, and compassion, AND A NAP, your way. 🙂

    1. Clearly you understand! Sending me love and a nap? You are one of my people for sure. 🙂
      Thank you for your comment and the encouragement.
      Love,
      Shawna

      1. It’s totally true. Really, really truly. I’ve been disheartened as I’ve started navigating this online autism community, as I encountered countless parents that grow tired of the fight and then just…. make a decision to stop trying. To stop trying to bridge the gap in communication. To stop trying to reach their child. They let it go, and not in a good, “Frozen” kinda way.

        It is kind of surprising to me how few mommies and daddies out there really fight this battle without turning on their children themselves — or worse, turning their backs on their children completely. Your post is refreshing to me, in so many, many ways, because there is an unbelievable amount of love and acceptance, mixed with a good amount of “fight,” all in a good, healthy balance. It’s not easy to keep that balance (that’s where those naps come in!). There are days when the balance gets completely out of wack, but I can tell in your prose that, for the most part, while every once in a while you might have a day that feels wacky, you find your center the next morning, and you get back to the task at hand — the task being raising two amazing, intelligent, compassionate and healthy individuals.

        Like I said, they are lucky to have you. 🙂

  5. I was talking to my dad about this sort of thing. He was basically saying how he isn’t doing his best because he has all these things he could improve on. I basically told him that if we compare our now selves to the selves we eventually want to be, we’ll never be enough or even get to that eventual goal because we’ll be focusing too much on what we’re doing wrong and not on the joy that we are pointed in directions to improve.
    Thanks for the post 🙂

  6. My Ben had severe and profound m.r. with autistic tendencies. He would put his hands in his mouth and it drove me crazy. I was discussing this with his developmental Dr.when he was about 8 and he looked at me and said, “Ben doesn’t have a problem, you do. He is calming himself, by himself when he is stressed. He doesn’t bite himself or harm himself. So you need to get over it.” And I did.

    1. Jan, thank you so much for sharing! Your doctor’s words hit me hard this morning, because I think they are true in our situation as well. So often, my son does not have a problem at all. It’s me.
      I really appreciate you sharing your experience and wisdom.
      Love,
      Shawna

    2. Thank God for people who are not afraid of hurting our feelings – they help us to not ruin our lives, and those of others, as well.

  7. Thank you!! Perfect timing. Was struggling big time this morning with how far my son has to go and that it’s all my fault that he’s not farther along. This post has been such a huge blessing in so many ways.

  8. I’ve had to remind myself of this very thing so many times, especially when I feel other people are expecting my kid to not always be autistic. Sending you hugs.

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