the last couple of months have been a string of appointments, evaluations, and new places and people, which my son has a particularly difficult time with. it’s also been a whole lot of different people giving me their opinions, observations, and parenting advice, which i have a particularly difficult time with. i have never been a person that handles criticism with any measure of grace. in my working life i was always over-sensitive to criticism, and i always knew that to be a big weakness. my son being diagnosed as autistic has put me into a whole new world as much as it has him. it’s pushing both of us into very uncomfortable territory. as the appointments stack up, i realize that the idea of all of these people coming into my house for several hours a day is rather threatening to me. it feels a little like i’m being watched. and that brings up a lot of shit that i carry around. feelings of inadequacy. feeling like this is my fault. feeling like i am not qualified to be a mother. feeling like i am somehow inferior as a woman.
when my son had colic i experienced all of these feelings: the inadequacy and the shame and the guilt. simultaneously feeling sorry for myself and feeling like it was my fault. i experienced being somewhere and having my son crying inconsolably and having people look at me like, “can’t you make this stop?” this morning i experienced all of this as i sat in a speech therapy office while my son screamed and banged his hand on the door, trying to escape. i felt all of those feelings again as the therapist looked at me with that look of, “you’re his mother, don’t you know how to fix this?” i experienced the anger at her expecting me to fix it and i experienced the flood of sadness and shame when i had to say to myself, “i’m his mother, why don’t i know how to fix this?”
and yet, i have to admit that we are in a very different place than we were when he was a colicky newborn and i was a new mother with no idea what to do. i do know how to fix it, and most of the time the way to fix it is to let it, let him, be. let him be who he is. and let his storms pass and just be there with him until it does pass. and that doesn’t always fit into someone’s 10 minute window or their series of games. what my son has shown me, countless times, is that he doesn’t fit into the box. he has never fit the mold of a typical baby. and at every turn, when i try to push him into that mold he refuses. and i find that when i stop pushing him, eventually he gets there. in a different way than i ever imagined, but he gets there on his terms. all that i have to do is love him, unconditionally, and be there for him. and i think so often that children are our biggest mirrors. because when have i ever given myself that?
the truth is motherhood is extremely challenging. but you know what, life is extremely challenging. i wish we could all cut ourselves a little slack and realize that we all question ourselves. yesterday i leaned that the woman with the career of my dreams and a child-free life that i fantasize about, just wants to be a mom. and the woman who has what i consider to be the perfect body, has body image issues. the truth is we all doubt ourselves. we all compare ourselves. and maybe the grass is always greener, but i think that if we stop to look at our lives, we all have ways that we are hard on ourselves that show up over a whole range of issues, and maybe those issues arrive to teach us something about ourselves. maybe my son has something to teach me about acceptance.
*image is by francesca woodman.