Sisu: Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough


Parenting is tough stuff at the best of times. Throw in the added extras of ASD and twins and there’s a perfect combo for some impressive tough spots. But given parenting these three isn’t an option, it’s going to take some remarkable feats of patience and determination to get us through the next day, let alone them to adulthood, without me plot losing in a fairly major way.


What I’m banking on is my reserves of ‘sisu’. Introduced to me by a dear Finnish friend, we don’t have a word in the English language that quite does sisu justice. It’s a mixture of concepts but is basically founded in guts and determination, a grit to keep going, to keep persevering even when things are tough. As I understand it, it’s actually knowingly going beyond what you can handle, and handling it anyway. ASD and twin parents need sisu in the bucket loads, and chances are you’ve got it.


Sisu is what made me hug my boy last night when frankly I wanted to throttle him for how downright exhausting he’d been. Sisu was there when everything in me hurt yet one of my chronically attention-deprived twins said she wanted me to tickle her. Sisu was there when another morning came round, I’d had very little sleep, and despite 5 years of practice, my ASD boy can’t follow the morning routine whilst one twin was poorly and one bereft at going to school alone. Sisu, and I kept going.


The majority of life at the moment can seem tough. At the epicentre are those three little letters: ASD. Things are tough for this 9 year old Asperger’s kid. Navigating the transition from little boy to nearly secondary age is proving to be another exercise in the goal posts shifting. The ASD is at the fore. Morning ‘typical family hell time’ getting three ready for school is punctuated with repetitive noises, melt downs, wandering, and absent-mindedness on another level. He actually forgot to put toothpaste on the toothbrush this morning despite holding both brush and paste in his hands. It is mentally exhausting. He needs constant intervention, support, reminders whilst carefully negotiating his self-esteem reserves.


And with that epicentre of ASD, everything else is liable of going to pot. Two little girls aren’t getting the attention they need and so, being twins, are causing mischief on an epic scale. Whilst your back is turned reminding Boo to pick up his school bag for the fifteenth time despite him being stood next to it, Bug has taken her clothes off (just for fun you see) and Pip has drawn on a chair. If they weren’t such blatant bids for attention it’d be funny.


In the midst of it is me: humble mum drawing on sisu. Finding the determination to speak with a calm voice when repeating the, perfectly-reasonable-asked-every-morning-request, of putting the toothpaste on the brush before brushing teeth, for the umpteenth time. Sisu is there in the midst of an ASD meltdown when two scared little girls need shielding despite me wanting to meltdown too. Sisu is there when all I want to do is leave them at school and never come back.


You see, sisu gets the bigger picture. That this is what we’ve got, so you better work with it because no one else will. Sisu sees that the buck stops firmly with me. Sisu knows I’m my kid’s best shot, and that they need me. Sisu also, I suspect, knows that I’m doing ok with this parenting malarkey, even when I think I’m not. Sisu rocks.



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