Today falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the Jewish calendar. This marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year and is a time to connect to what is sacred in our lives. For me, it is a time to take a break from our endless “doing” and connect to “being.” When I say “being,” I mean who we are right now — not who we want to become. This seemingly simple task can actually be incredibly challenging. As a culture, we are continuously focused on moving forward, making new achievements, adding more accomplishments to our resume. We hope and believe that when we get THERE — we will have arrived; arrived at a place of infinite joy, peace and fulfillment.
In my work with families with autistic children since 1997, I see the same pattern magnified.
I have heard many families tell me that they will be happy when their child __________ (you can fill in the blank with the many things you might want for your child — like when my child recovers, when my child communicates, when my child is toilet trained, etc.)
What happens is this: a child with autism is experienced as a work in progress and many parents suffer from the endless desperation of getting there — the place where their child’s potential is truly actualized so they can finally be happy. Does that sound familiar to you?
What I am about to say might spark a lot of controversy — but I’m gonna say it anyway.
No matter what achievement your child makes — you will never arrive at happiness.
What do I mean by that? I have seen parents who thought the exact same thing — they were blessed to see their child recover and were they grateful, pleased — yes… until the next challenge came up.
Will my child succeed academically? Will my child have a girlfriend? Why does my husband not listen when I talk? What is the purpose of my life now? How are we going to pay our bills?
The point is this: You will never arrive at happiness because happiness is not a place to arrive — it is an experience to be cultivated.
Joy can only be cultivated by embracing what IS — who your child is TODAY, right now — the very second that your are reading this line.
I am not suggesting that by accepting your child you should walk away from all biomedical or therapeutic intervention. These therapies are incredibly powerful and have created incredible growth in children.
What I am saying is that as you do all that you do for your child — don’t do it as if your life/happiness depended on it. In fact, I have seen that when you work towards helping your child without this type of desperation you will be able to think more clearly and take more powerful and effective steps towards helping your child.
This is my blessing to you in this New Year: Don’t wait until your child achieves X, Y and Z in order to experience peace and joy. It puts unnecessary stress on your child and keeps you from experiencing joy in this moment — the only place joy can truly be experienced.
And the best part is that your child gets to experience YOU in a state of love and joy for who he is right now while you continue to be committed to his ongoing growth.
Tali Berman is an autism specialist, developmental play expert and author of “Play to Grow! Over 200 games to help your special child develop fundamental social skills” (with foreword by Jenny McCarthy). She is also the founder/leader of the Autism Empowerment Telesummit, gathering top autism experts on her elite panel, reaching thousands of families around the globe. You can learn more at: www.meirautism.org.