I don’t even know how to navigate this situation. I don’t know what tools to provide, because I don’t seem to have them myself.
I’m alternately worried for my daughter’s success and (less importantly) what it says about my parenting skills.
I feel heavy and apprehensive, and I don’t know what to do.
Here’s the situation:
She is on a new soccer team. A good soccer team. I remember her old team playing this team a few times last year, and getting crushed by them. The coach is awesome, and is actually giving the girls real instruction and feedback to make them better players.
I don’t know if she just never received actual instruction before, or what has changed from her previous soccer team, but she does NOT like being told what to do and she isn’t exactly polite about telling her coach so.
I told her coach when we started that Anna is on the spectrum, sometimes has trouble focusing, and definitely has trouble with social connections. She just doesn’t compute how to navigate social situations. I hesitated to tell her coach that right out of the gate, but I wanted him to know that she is coming from a different place than most other kids.
After practice today (our second practice), he pulled me aside and explained that Anna was very rude to all of the coaches. When they gave her instruction, her response was, “Yeah. I got it!” but then she would continue to do things her way, not taking the instruction. He suggested that we work with her on more polite ways of responding to coaches. Me, mortified, promised to do so.
I talked to Anna a bit right there, and I noticed that the coach was talking to one of the assistant coaches at the same time.
Anna was telling me that it was frustrating to have the coaches tell her things as if she’s never played soccer before. Brian and I tried to explain to her that they wouldn’t be giving her those instructions if she were doing it the way they wanted. So regardless of what she thinks she knows or can do, she needs to accept the feedback and try to make changes accordingly.
The coach, meanwhile, finished his conversation with the assistant, and asked to talk to me again. He said the assistant is used to dealing with kids like Anna in her day job, and she recognizes that she is coming from a different place. However, he said, he expects a lot from the girls, is strict about what they are learning, and shouldn’t have to change his whole way of coaching for her, or let the other girls see that it’s ok to be rude. I was mortified that he thought I was asking for special treatment for Anna, or asking for her bad behavior to be excused just because of the Autism. I don’t want her excused, I explained, the only reason I brought it up is because I don’t want anyone to think she is a jerk.
And truly, that’s the only reason I tell anyone. “Don’t mind her, she’s not a jerk, she just truly doesn’t understand how to relate to other people.”
But lordy, how I’m questioning my parenting right now. Is she an impolite jerk because I haven’t done a good job as a parent in teaching her how to be respectful of other people in authority? Am I trying to blame Autism for my own failures as a parent?
I was so excited for her to join this new team, with the possibility of making new friends. Now I’m worried that they’ll all think she had to switch teams because she’s a jerk and got kicked off her old team.
And really – did she get rejected because they didn’t want to deal with an Autistic kid on the team? I don’t think so. They went from two teams to one, and two teams worth of girls had to squeeze on to one team. The girls who did make it on the team don’t get as much time on the field because there are just so many of them. And I don’t think she was excluded on purpose – but how could I possibly know that? I’m sure the new coach is assuming that’s what happened. It’s so hard not to project my own insecurities on the situation.
So I don’t know how to convince Anna to be respectful when she doesn’t recognize that she’s being disrespectful. I don’t know how to convince her to be polite when she doesn’t recognize that she is being impolite. I just don’t know.
And I want her to do well on this team – I think she could learn so much, and what a good experience to make friends from different schools.
I practice Constant Vigilance (yes, it’s capitalized) when it comes to politeness training with my kids. EVERY TIME they answer “sure,” or “nah” or whatever, I respond with, “Your options are either, ‘Yes, please, Mama,” or “No thank you, Mama.” I make them look people in the eye to thank them. They hold doors for people coming behind them, they chew with their mouths closed (most of the time) and they pick up after themselves. But all of that seems like nothing when a man I’ve met twice tells me that he can’t have Anna’s rudeness affecting the other girls on the team. It’s got to be pretty bad for that conversation to take place.
Anna’s response to all this? “Everyone is on a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It’s just a lot easier for me to slip into the downward, angry place than most people, and it’s harder for me to swoop out of it into the normal place or the happy, up place.”
So I don’t know what to do. I’m at a loss, and feeling like a failure. I want to help my beautiful, thoughtful, wise, caring, sweet daughter live in the happy joyful place, not in the low, dark places.
I want the rest of the world to see the bright sweetness that I know is who she is. I want them to see the wise poet who makes art out of flowers and leaves, and whose heart is so big that she has to write caring notes for anyone who she thinks may be hurting inside.
But I don’t know how to help her when all she shows the world is an obstinate, stubborn jerk who is rude to the adults trying to help her. I’m at a loss.