My mother has this idea that people are either gardeners or flowers. Either you're the kind of person who dithers and dathers and duthers and can't do anything for yourself, or you're a doer, the one who gets everything taken care of while all of the flowers lie around, looking lovely and smelling good. Without the flowers, our world would be a dull place indeed. But without the gardeners, there wouldn't be "our" world.
I've come to see the world of autism parents as a similar dichotomy...to a point. Some parents seem to be the "fixers," the ones in the dammit-I-want-to-know-what-the-hell-did-this-to-my-child-and-I'm-gonna-fix-it-too group whose desire to find a cause to fix can lead them in all kinds of directions, both useful and useless. Like the gardeners, they dig and dig, but some soils are less yielding than others, some less fertile. A barren desert is no place to look for rosebushes or their thorns. When I read the comments of people whom I mentally classify into this group, I get a feeling of anger and of bitterness, of a shaking fist at the sky, and of this need for "fixing" as a manifestation of a need for blame. And blame is incredibly important. If we didn't have people looking for and pointing out the right targets of blame, we'd still be living under feudalism somewhere, or worse. I lean "fixer" myself.
Then there are the acceptors, the ones who look at their children with the attitude of "what's done is done and can't be undone." There's a sort of forward-looking feel to this approach, a theme of "what's the point of looking back? It's not going to solve anything." There's a big emphasis on taking what's there and working with that, rather than looking for fixes. There's a lot to be said for acceptance, so much so that this philosophy permeates many a religion. What always comes to my mind when I think of acceptors is the Navajo concept of hozho, keeping yourself right and in tune with the world as it is, rather than forcing the world to put itself right for you and march to your tune. I learned all that, by the way, from Tony Hillerman, which represents the full extent of my studies of Navajo culture. As much as I admire it, I do not lean "acceptor." I can't help it. I'm immature that way.
Obviously, one of these comes across as an active, doer, gardener type, while the other seems closer to the passive, accepting flowers. But honestly, what I really see in the world of autism parents is that they all fix and accept in ever-fluctuating ratios, along a spectrum if you will, of fixing and accepting.
Some of us balance more toward fixing things (me!). We're probably all gardeners, people who are used to doing, dammit, and getting it done. People who don't like to encounter obstacles, experience too much beyond our control, people who like to have a pretty decent idea of what is coming next. If we don't have an idea of what is coming next, we'll determine that for ourselves. The fixers are the doers are the gardeners are the band leaders who do want to set the tune and make the world right around them, rather than mold themselves into the world.
They make great inventors, scientists, philanthropists, leaders, and mothers and fathers.
Then there are those of us who are acceptors (you?). We look at the world around us and see what is good there, how we fit in in ways we don't even understand, but that's OK. We see our children for whoever and whatever they are and that's just part of that landscape and part of us and that's OK. What's coming next? Who knows, and you're not allowed to plan that kind of thing anyway because life is what happens to you while you're busy making those plans. All of life is an expression of something important enough that we don't need to try to change it. We just have to let it be. This paragraph was brought to you in part by John Lennon.
Acceptors make great artists, musicians, writers, poets, and mothers and fathers.
(I'm totally expecting this construct, by the way, to replace completely the Myers-Briggs classification one of these days.)
Then there are those of us who fall along the spectrum, somewhere in the middle. We fix what seems fixable, we let the other stuff go, we step up when stepping up is required, we fall into the background when stepping in will do no good. The overall philosophy forms the basis of what is probably one of the most famous prayers in world, Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer":
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
You knew that was going to show up in here somewhere, right?
Probably most of us fall somewhere along the center of this spectrum, leaning to one end on some days and stretching to the opposite end on others. I can spend entire weeks on the "fixer" end, fighting the world, only to relax back into wisdom for awhile, taking a break from pugnacity at the "acceptor" end of things.
What are you? A fixer or an acceptor? A gardener or a flower? Doesn't really matter that much because the one thing that we, the people with children, all are, that we all have in common, is that we are parents. Whether consciously or not, whether willingly or not, we all must fix, and we all must accept. If we are wise, we'll recognize that we don't have to all be doing it at the same time.