Parenting, no matter that it has been done since the dawn of man, really doesn't have any roadmaps at the individual level. Yes, there are more books than any one person could read and as many opinions as there are assholes, but that really doesn't help you when it's crunch time and you are in the MOMENT and need to manage a situation.
In the moment, well, it's hard to sit back and be objective and think about all the behavior shaping techniques that research shows work. It's hard to think fast enough of all the possible consequences, to be outside the moment looking in, judging how to handle the situation.
In the moment, time spools out without pause, and emotions heave. Calm, logical negotiation: yeah, right.
In the moment: this is where my son and oldest daughter live almost exclusively. I am almost never IN THE MOMENT. I am three steps past the moment. I am often everywhere but the moment. There is naturally a disconnect in our communication. I cannot fathom living in the moment without those anchors.
As Bobby has gotten older, become a man, we have had to renegotiate frequently the rules, the expectations, the level of autonomy, everything. He is a grown man and he deserves to make as many decisions about his life as he possibly can. At the same time, he is a member of the household with responsibilities. There is occasional conflict. Go figure.
Is it fair to say that I think I suffer more from this conflict than Bobby does, that it weighs more on me than on him? Can I really know that? I don't know, and I don't think it's fair to assume. He's good at verbalizing what's on his mind--in fact his pattern is that he has to vocalize everything he's thinking. But what if he's gotten to where he doesn't always vocalize? What if he can hide some of his internal workings? What then?
No roadmaps here. None at all. We're both doing our best to negotiate boundaries and expectations on both sides. It means a different way of interacting on my part, though, and it's often wearying to find the balance between giving him the guidance and direction he needs and allowing autonomy (he needs verbal prompting to accomplish almost all tasks--the only task he does with regularity without prompting is getting his clothes on when he knows he has to go to Meals on Wheels). Everything else requires prompting. I try to make sure that portions of his days are his alone to dictate--who wants to be told what to do every moment of the day? And what would give me that right?
Still, as we progress into his adulthood, we really are without roadmaps. It's all uncharted territory and trying to do the best for him and the best for the family, all at the same time, is challenging. And it's not as if it's just Bobby. Lily and Rosie are right there, needing similar guidance and assistance, and each of them is different.
Autism in our family doesn't look the same. I suspect that it doesn't look the same anywhere, because we are all unique individuals with distinct strengths and challenges. Sometimes it's difficult to remember that what works with Bobby or didn't may have completely different results with each girl. They are all unique, fascinating, wonderful people who need individualized approaches and supports. And there are no roadmaps, just two parents, an extended family, and three awesome kids doing the best we can to create our own way in the wilderness. I reckon we can survive a little conflict if we keep respecting each other's right to feel and be ourselves.