Resilience is defined as
"the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties".
This is a skill that is learned and so necessary to endure the things that are thrown at us everyday in life.
This is not an easy skill to teach and certainly one that many adults still struggle with in their lives. When you are diagnosed with autism at an early age, there are so many things that you are trying to work on and master every day of your life and it can be so overwhelming. As a parent, we try to make things as easy and smooth as possible when we can because there are already so many hard things. This can prevent a child from learning resilience.
I was so proud of Ben this past Christmas where he showed how mature he had become and how he handled disappointment.
It all started when he wanted to go to an Eagles away game as his big Christmas gift. I love that there is something that he wanted and enjoyed, but the downside is that it did not leave many things under the tree after the event. His brother decided that he wanted to play a joke on Ben and have a big pile of gifts to make it look like he had the most at Christmas. He actually wrapped many gifts that were items he purchased for himself that turned into a huge pile under the tree.
Ben's face said it all on Christmas morning when he saw the discrepancy in the piles. He tried to put on a brave face and remember the fun he had at the Eagles games but you could see it was weighing on him. He even said at one point
"Was I naughty this year?"
Wow! 24 years old and still believes that gifts have to do with performance! He asked several times
"Did mom wrap those gifts?"
and Dan was honestly able to answer
because he had wrapped them himself.
Dan finally told Ben (after he opened every last gift in his pile) that he really had bought them with his own money and the relief on Ben's face was palpable! A few years ago, this type of sibling teasing would have resulted in a meltdown of epic proportions.
Later, as we were celebrating with my extended family we played a white elephant game where everyone gets a number and each person can open a gift or steal a gift from someone else. The running joke is a board game called Kitty Wampus, which is kind of like drawing the "Old Maid" card ( if anyone remembers that card game), and whoever gets stuck with it has to find a creative way to wrap it for the next Christmas.
Ben was unlucky this year and picked Kitty Wampus! To add insult to injury his other gift was a set of snowman salt and pepper shakers. As funny as this picture is, I was so proud of him that he was such a good sport about the whole thing. In another lifetime, this would have caused major meltdowns and changed the whole course of the holiday. (Grammy thankfully came to his rescue and "stole" the salt and pepper shakers so he could chose a new gift!)
Allowing kids to feel sadness and loss and helping them process the feelings to know they are feelings and not a reflection of themselves is so important. So proud of you Ben, for your resilience, and how hard you have worked in so many areas!!
If you want to read more about Ben's journey you can read all about the highs and lows in our book “Swinging From the Chandelier: Finding Joy in the Journey Through Autism”
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