It's Spring Break in our household. While my husband has been away on business, the kids and I are "enjoying" a stay-cation. It has been a learning experience, with me being the one doing most of the learning. Just the other day I was eloquently educating my daughter on her deficit in the area of frustration tolerance, to which she replied, "Well I don't have a very good role model!" Ouch. Did I mention she's 8? But I can't argue against her point. I admit that I am very poor at hiding frustration. And I'll also admit that I'm not always the best role model for my children. Case in point, while driving my children around town, I often feel compelled to point out that my own vocabulary and gestures aren't exemplary defensive driving skills. Thanks to my 8-year-old, I am suddenly very self-aware regarding how much influence my actions have on my children, for better or worse.
I've also started to think about how my children are influenced by unexpected sources. I received a call the other day from Cameron's boss at his pizzeria internship. My mind was racing as to why he would be calling: Has Cameron's desire to work extra hours during Spring Break caused him to become a nuisance? Has Cameron been eating too much while on the job, and I now owe hundreds of dollars in pizza fees? As it turns out, his boss was calling because he was concerned with the amount of soda Cameron was drinking, and felt it was resulting in Cameron's increased hyperactivity. (For the record, we do not have soda at home, and I have told Cameron that soda every day at work is not good for him.) How great is it that a man who has made his living selling pizza and soda to college students is genuinely concerned about my son's overconsumption? And how great is it that a person whom I've only briefly met has reiterated to Cameron the same lesson I try to teach at home? This is the kind of role model I am looking for! Incidentally, when I told Cameron his boss had called about the amount of soda he had been drinking, Cameron's response was, "Well, I've stopped doing that." I asked when he had stopped, to which he replied, "Today." Huh. What a coincidence he stopped right before I had a chance to tell him to stop.
I've also been thinking about the role models Cameron sees on television. He loves those kid networks' tween-targeted sitcoms. You know, the ones where the besties are always helping each other into or out of trouble? Cameron seems enamored by these characters' relationships, and even follows the actors' real life relationships as closely as Google allows. Now, if only he would take the leap into reality and start modeling some of these relationships himself. Heck, if he did that, I wouldn't even be bothered by the fact that his best friend was in a wizard competition and accidentally turned our house into a toadstool! I just so wish Cameron was interested in being around other people, and that other people were interested in being around him. While most parents of high school-aged children worry about their children falling in with the wrong crowd, I worry about Cameron never falling in with ANY crowd.
I'm thankful for the positive influences Cameron comes into contact with on a daily basis. Sometimes I'm somewhat taken aback by how many of these role models come from outside of the Autism Universe. You come to expect special educators, social workers, therapists, and the like to provide the necessary positive feedback. But role models need not be a segregated population. Maybe mainstream role models will someday lead to mainstream socialization.