Reflections of and on a probably Asperger's parent parenting an Asperger's kid (or 2)!

dragon pups

dragon pups

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

my greatest fear - being a bad mom

So, this is a common theme for many. I know that the depth and sting of the guilt I saddle myself with about what I do with and for my kids and how I do it is not anything new.  Through the ages, children have been the force that inspires civilizations and individuals to improve themselves, to help as many as can be helped, to make the world a better place for the future. 
            I tend to have that "long-term"/ "forest" view of history. I know that the base emotions, my drive to protect my children, to arm them for life, is exactly what my mother felt/ feels, and what my grandmothers felt, and my great grandmothers felt.  There is universality to motherhood, an age-less/ time-less Truth to the experience, recognized across cultures and generations and geography. (I have lots of thoughts of that too, but right now I need to expunge the guilt part.)  Mothers are connected, to their children, to each other.  Kids can instinctively tell who will "mother" them and who won't, who that safe "grandmother" is in any space they find themselves (the lady at the pool, the one behind you at the grocery, the one watching at the park...), who will help when they need a band-aid, or to find the bathroom.  As with all of history (again another topic), the experience has a universal aspect despite the peculiarity of the details in each and every "case study".  So the guilt I carry is not new, and probably not even wholly mine.

The problem for me is the "Dragon" piece, the part of me that seeks to attain the height of wisdom.  I know that I will have a tendency to "over" mother, to smother with an effort to protect & train "correctly", to be wise for them instead of to them.  I have striven to combat that by giving my children space to be.  I am sure that there are some who would argue that I have created an environment that enables my child's autism, letting that one act out & be naked and so forth, negotiating instead of enforcing.  I have striven to academically justify all those decisions (more later) with Montessori methods and the Protestant definition of the divinely different individual and telling myself that I just have to choose my battles (which many other "autism mom" blogs have talked about how autism redefines that old adage).
And I am, of course, an over-thinker.  As parenthood approached I searched and searched my heart; I thought of my experience as a child, of the dynamics I witnessed in generations of my family (all sides), of what went well and what didn't, and I wrote a 10 page letter to all 4 grandparents about what I expected of children, and how I expected my kids to be raised, trying to describe what I thought a good parent would do, look like.  Some of them took it better than others, but I got it all out and made my position clear.
            Of course, life is never what you thought it would be. Babies stop breathing, diagnoses surprise you, economies tank, equipment breaks down.  My story is no better or worse than many, our challenges singularly our own, yet very comparable.  This week, I feel that the wisdom I sought, the base I established, is woefully inadequate.  I expected challenge, but I didn't expect to have my core beliefs challenged, my integrity to myself questioned. And thus, the seat of my guilt:

There are LOTS of focuses for that guilt.  There are some role models I am striving to avoid; there are some I am trying to emulate.  I should have performed the rescue breathing sooner, I should have recognized the signs sooner, I should have sought interventions sooner, I should have followed my instinct to homeschool, I should have balanced time between the kids better, I should have prayed harder, I should have cooked healthier foods....  There seems to be so much that I could have done better... ESPECIALLY with the ASD diagnosis. 
It is widely understood and stressed that the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO is EARLY INTEVENTION - the stress is upon that small window of neural plasticity that could provide your child with the just right activity/ input/ environment that will make it better, maybe even way better.  The weight of finding and executing that "just right" thing is pretty heavy (since you need to fine the thing that matches your child's chemistry and distinct kind of  autism with the therapy or diet that actually creates an impact); the doubts that surround every minute decision (from diaper brands to laundry detergents to foods to reading to...) can be overwhelming.  The ONLY best advice/ practice to be found is to "follow your own motherly instinct", to use your "mommy radar". 
Damn.  That is hard.  Where is the line between confidence and arrogance?  How many mothers have been dismissed throughout time for being too concerned, too protective, too agitated, too emotional? As new mothers we get that line from our parents and doctors that whole first year with the first kid. Where are the lines between indulging/ spoiling the child and bolstering the child?  There are snide comments in public places (grocery stores, etc.), snide comments at family gatherings, open interventions by well-meaning family & friends, and the oppressive weight of knowing that no matter how hard you try there are no instruction manuals, no reset buttons... you will NOT get it all right, and then you will have to try to heal the hurt you created. 
I honestly try to not pass on my own insecurities, to not ask my children to unconsciously live my dreams, to not ask them to deny their inner promptings, but I also know that I have already planted the seeds of self-doubt and loathing that will burden them, forever.  So how do you know if you are projecting your fears and weaknesses onto your child?  What if it's really that I just don't like who my child is?  One of my children is very aware that ASD is a DISability, a handicap, an excuse, a reason to be uncontrollably different.  The bullying from school combined with what ever seeds had already been planted started those statements of self-loathing and death wishes by the age of 7.  My other child is VERY strong willed (could be interpreted as ASD) - and has inadvertently elicited frustrated name-calling and intense discipline from me and other family members, by the age of 5. 

My failure has already happened.

I know that I need to "shake it", to practice my own "positive" thoughts, to see the "strengths psychology" I seek, to heal the hurts that I have already caused.  I need to find the place where I can still believe in my own motherly instinct, without questioning my selfishness at seeking integrity to myself.  I need to forgive me, and renew my confidence, but the price seems SOOOOO costly.  It's not just my life anymore... my actions effect how my children view themselves, and society's expectations upon them. I run the risk of breaking what God has made Holy in them, of crushing their wills, or breaking their creativity, or denying their Gifts.  They all seem like risks too big to take.

Same old story, new singer. And I will have to find the same answers that generations have found - faith, hope, love - and make them our own.

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