I’ve always been that mum who doesn’t really blend in.
I was very clear I wanted to be a parent. I have just never been particularly good at conforming to the role expectations of parental behaviour. I argued with the doctors during all my labours. I could not think of one thing to ask at my first mother’s group, because I had researched all the answers to the questions before I went. I found it mind-numbing to hang out at the local park. My car is a tip, no matter what I do. If I had the money, I’d set it on fire and start again: seems easier than cleaning it. Other parents find our team on the soccer field because my hair is coloured so bright it’s like a light attracting beacon…
I let my firstborn crawl towards the power points (he pulled out all those little plastic safety plugs anyway) so that he could get an early start on developing his areas of ‘restricted and repetitive interest’. At 12 he can now solder and repair circuitry, set up your home surround sound system, and install your automated Xmas lights activated through an app on your phone.
My middle child will lead himself somewhere into the direction of a hectic, and likely at times hedonistic adolescence. He simply cannot stop sliding on all ground surfaces and none of his pants have any knees. At 6, he aspires to be part of the student leadership team so he can make decisions about all the things; at present this largely involves which song is played for the school bell. He is in equal parts a very large (and at times ferocious) personality, and a very small and endearing human.
My pre-schooler rejects all clothing marketed at girls because there are NO superheroes on any of the ‘girl’ t-shirts and they are ‘stupid’, as is everything resembling a frock. Her all boy crew at day care love her energy but are slightly confused because: ‘she’s a girl…but she doesn’t act like a girl’ (and the feminists everywhere sigh: what does that even mean)?At our school I’ve instigated a working party to implement gender neutral uniforms (because…like, obviously), but you won’t find me at a P&C meeting. I tried that once. It was really boring.
These are some of the things I have learnt so far through both parenting neurodiverse kids, and being a neurodivergent mum…
- Comparison is the theft of joy. Stop comparing yourself and your family to others. All kids behave worst for the people who love them the most. You are doing a good job.
- Completion of homework in primary school is not an indicator of future success, or whether they will ever move out of your house. If they can do it without too much drama, great. If not, then don’t. It is simply not worth the angst.
- Birthday parties are not always fun. Some kids just want a Bunnings voucher.
- If you can guide your neurodivergent offspring into something, pick a martial art. They will thank you for it later (more on this in an upcoming blog).
- Advocate. The current education system was not developed to support neurodivergent brains. The most compliant individuals are not usually the most successful in the end.
- Perhaps family dinner like the brady bunch is an unrealistic expectation. Personally, I am aiming for all family members together around a table eating some semblance of the same meal about 3 times per week. For around 10 minutes max. Usually one of the kids is half standing.
- I will no longer be sending one of my kids to sports carnivals, despite the fact the note sent home advises me that ‘attendance is compulsory’. I beg to differ. You deal with the sensory meltdown caused by sitting poolside with 600 kids chanting war cries all day. We have better things to do!
- Going on school camp is like a super crazy idea for a lot of children. They certainly will not have a sufficiently important life experience if it also causes a nervous breakdown (yours or theirs).
- Incentives, rewards, and star charts do not work for all children. My eldest at age 3 gave precisely no shits.
- If in doubt stop, breathe, and lower your voice. If you whisper back to one of your kids who is yelling at you, it confuses them enough so you can make a run for it.
Unsurprisingly, my kids don’t really blend in either. And I bloody love them for it.
About the Author
Dani is the Founder and Principal at The Divergent Edge: a neurodivergent led, ever-evolving vision born through a spectacular collision of her life, her loves and career. The Divergent Edge is a niche practice supporting adults with ADHD, through therapeutic coaching, counselling, and the power of information and advocacy.
Dani also offers specialised parenting support, works with neurodivergent couples, and is developing a range of support groups. She provides clinical supervision and leadership mentoring and is available for consulting. Just for starters…