I have an 11 year old Asperboy who has just started college here in the UK. He is doing an amazing job. An absolutely amazing job. But he is finding the change really very difficult and of course, he is under scrutiny by all those older kids who seem so together and adult, as indeed many of them are. I guess it feels kind of like you are a tiny boat and you are trying, everyday, to negotiate the Bristol Shipping Channel; one of the busiest waters in the UK, if not the world. I think that’s what college must feel like to him.
Last week he had a big anxiety outburst and shouted at himself that he was a ‘stupid baby.’ It was the first time it had all come out like that, in those words. I held him and talked to him and made him an icy drink (your tip—thank you xx) and we spoke about demons and how they can grow inside your head. We talked about how they get put there and how they love to be fed with all the evidence they can find to back up their idea about you … which is not the truth. We spoke about how they lie and twist things and hang on to all the bad stuff and discount the good stuff so they can get bigger. My son said he had had his demon for years and that was what it said to him and it made him not like himself.
We both cried a lot at what demons can do. I told him his demon was wrong and I told him about my bad demon and he said my demon had it wrong too. We had a lot of hugs. We wrote down what those demons said, along with our other worries, and put the words in a box, on the shelf, in a cupboard (again—your tip from your video—thank you xxx) and left them there until we want to talk about them again. He calmed down instantly after doing this exercise. It really helped him. Thank you.
Anyway, yesterday, whilst reading The Asperkid’s Launch Pad I realized that I have been feeding my son’s demon. It makes me cry to say it but I can see it’s true. Not in the things I say but in the fact that I do so much for him, hover over him, jump in and help when he struggles. I guess I want his life to be as easy as possible and I know it is very far from that so I do all I can to help. Yesterday I saw that for what it was—that although my intentions were good and true, the effect of my actions was actually harming my son by not allowing him to grow, learn and take responsibility for things. I realized I have been doing too much for him, taking over when he struggles, doing tasks that he is actually really capable of doing if he was shown how and got support to do them.
I saw this, cried, took a deep breath and said ‘I can fix this!’ Again— your words—so simple but so good to say. I went downstairs and got to work. I cleared the surfaces in the kitchen so there would be space for him to help me cook. I made a dead space that just had an old box of bills in it into a space for him to have his college things. I made a sign for that space to designate it his—it was a good sign mounted on shiny card with his school logo on it. It looked great.
He came home and together we made hot chocolate. With all that space on the surfaces it was easy to do. I demonstrated and he copied. He made the whole thing. He got a bit worried but I did not jump in and do it for him. I just showed him how and encouraged him. He even lit the gas hob after I had shown him how. We went and sat down and watched our favourite TV show with our drinks.
Later last night we went into the kitchen to get ready for the next day. I have been packing his bag for him for college but now I can see that he needs to do this for himself. The funny thing is (although it will make sense to you I think) that I didn’t need to ask him or encourage him to do it. He went to the space I had made and packed his bag himself, got his water bottle and placed it next to his bag in the space for the morning. He got all excited and looked at the sign I had made and said “I like going to college,” and then, I’m not kidding, he drew himself up and said “I’m NOT a baby.”
I saw, right there, what I can do to make that demon shrink and to make my son’s confidence grow. After only one change in my little house I saw the difference right there in front of me. He said it. He spoke up against his demon and I saw it wince and shrink. It felt good, better than good, to see that.
I thought that my most important job as a mother of an asperboy was to protect my son and smooth out everything I could for him. I have been wrong. My most important job is to empower my son. To step back. To let him be him. To be there for him but not to take his powers away. To encourage his powers to come out, and, as they come out, so his demons will retreat.
I am so moved by what I have learned I had to let you know. It was your book that made me see a very very important thing. It is so often your advice and your words that I turn to when things get tough. I always come away from an encounter with your work feeling positive … yes, feeling empowered. You empower me so that I can empower my son. And thus the world gets better.
Bless you Jennifer. We are so lucky to have you in the world.