the other day i said to my oldest friend that i feel as if i’ve lost my faith. i am a person who has always subscribed to a lot of woo-woo stuff, from astrology to cosmic force and all of the “everything happens for a reason” dogma that goes along with it. but there i was, spilling my guts to a most trusted confidant over a glass of rose, saying, “lately i just think…shit happens.”
i came to this conclusion after hearing myself saying, once again, that the past week or month or months have been “some of the hardest” or toughest or roughest or most difficult. after hearing myself say this for the umpteenth time i realized that i am no longer in a “tough phase,” this is my life. it is hard. there are a lot of days where i feel like i’m struggling just to make it through the day. where i feel like i’m not strong enough or good enough or compassionate enough or nurturing enough to be the mother my child needs. like things are just worsening with time. part of the process of having a child on the autism spectrum, for me, has been walking through the levels of acceptance. levels that go deeper and further and take different directions. facing the fact that this is not going away. facing the fact that my life is always going to be difficult. that i might never be able to work again. that my son might never talk. that he might never become independent. facing those possibilities is terrifying. but necessary. and doing that, lately, has caused a sort of unraveling for me.
lately the struggle has been about routines. my son has to have things a certain way, and when something doesn’t fit what he expects or wants, crisis usually ensues. i make myself sick trying to anticipate what he might want or need out of every minute, and of course i fail because life cannot be just the way anyone wants it all the time. i realize that i’ve been just as uptight and rigid about his routines as he has. i realized this when all of my carefully laid plans started to fall apart, and the falling apart got larger and larger until i had to pay attention. and realize that i can’t control my son and his reactions to life. all that i can do is be here for him. i can’t make the world go away.
when i told my friend that i felt as if there was no universe or star map or reason behind things anymore, that i no longer believed in magic, something funny happened. i started seeing things that gave me a certain kind of flutter, the kind that comes from synchronicity. i overheard conversations that felt like they were speaking to me. my plans fell apart so much that they left me alone with my son, and i realized that no amount of therapy or school or play groups can compare to me being with and connecting to him. i love him unconditionally, and i was so caught up in doing all of the right things, of making sure he got all of this therapy and intervention and just the right people and places and things to avoid some big scary dark unknown future. grinding through each day until i could get some time to myself, or my husband got home, or some vacation or future perfect. and in that i was missing the moment. the moments in the day where he wants to snuggle with me, or sing to me, or show me how incredibly smart he is. it’s not that i didn’t live those moments, it’s that i let them slip by. in my quest for something else, something that i can’t even define.
so i think that yes, shit happens. but it’s kind of magic when it does. because it’s the shit that makes you pay attention and look at where you are and who you’re with and what is going on in the present moment.
the lack of writing that i do on the subject of parenting a child on the autism spectrum is odd, considering, but it’s a subject that i’m hesitant to broach most days. the truth is that my feelings about it fluctuate a lot. my son is rapidly approaching four years old and sometimes i still catch myself wondering how i got here. at the same time i realize that i’ve gotten past the merky denial that comes with an early diagnosis, where the term “autism” is formless, undefined and hangs over you like a warning. where you tell yourself things like early intervention will solve it like a problem. where you think if you try hard enough you can make it go away. my son was diagnosed on his second birthday, and at the time i had no idea what to expect or to feel. but as he gets older i see more clearly those behaviors, the ones that seemed abstract when he was still just a baby.
what i’ve learned over the last year and a half is that the rules that apply to parenting apply to autism: there is no simple solution or answer. no two children are exactly the same, period. what works for my son might not work for another child, and just because it works today it might not work tomorrow. during the diagnostic period of filling out endless surveys and questionnaires and hearing theories by different therapists and doctors and seeing how they contradicted each other made it clear to me that my son did not fit any one profile. oddly enough it was his (hmo) pediatrician who said to me upon hearing his diagnosis, “don’t put henry in a box.” i have refused to do that, even when it’s meant that i come off like a pushy complainer. i’ve accepted my role as “high maintenance mom” in the eyes of his therapists & teachers. it’s more important to me that my son is taught the way that he learns, not forced to perform the way that others want him to.
my son has been going through a lot of transitions lately. the school year ending means lots of schedule changes, not seeing familiar people anymore and new people showing up. for my son, repetition is everything. it is how he functions, assimilates, relates, and stays on the ground instead of floating away (this is my interpretation, anyway). any change to his schedule is extremely upsetting to him. navigating changes can feel devastating, to him and to my husband & i by association. couple this with the fact that he is 3 1/2 and naturally in a temerarious, defiant period of his life. i feel like i’m walking on eggshells in a way that i haven’t since he was a colicky newborn. i am constantly worried about setting him off. the frequent tantrums are looking more bratty, but lately i’ve been trying to muster a little more compassion. public humiliation sucks(!). but i realize that getting some negative attention from strangers is not the end of the world. lately i’ve been trying to understand my son better. even though he can’t tell me what is wrong, he is telling me through his tantrums. lately i’ve been trying to listen more. and let those tantrums happen. and not let it feel like something that is happening to me, but something that is happening to HIM. and how can i help him to get through that?
i often say that parenthood is a crash course in life. all of the little things that you turn a blind eye to or regularly deny or suppress come right up to meet you. our children are our biggest mirrors. i think that if parenthood is a crash course in life, parenting a child on the autism spectrum is a master class. i confront my biggest blind spots daily. i’m forced to fight on days when i just want to hide under the covers. i am forced to be confrontational when it’s my nature to be passive (or passive aggressive). i am forced to be nurturing & affectionate when it’s my nature to shut down & withdraw. i am forced to show up when it is my nature to run away. one of the things that has surprised me most about motherhood is that somehow the love never runs out. after the most challenging, exhausting days, i still wake up (sometimes after being up all night with him) happy to see his face. i still constantly look for new ways to try to help him, new ways to make it better for him, new ways to make him smile.
mother’s day is upon us, friends. i am a person who not only dislikes but dreads my birthday, gets exhausted just thinking about christmas and no longer qualifies for administrative professionals or national boss’s day, but i do kinda love mother’s day. it’s the one holiday i agree with, because mom’s are in the shit. every damn day. we deserve a day. we really do. so here’s 15 mother’s day gifts that i for onsies would like to be the receiver of, from hecka pricey to el cheap-o and in between.
- so after years of avoiding tracy anderson (because part of me feels like her and her band of snobby celebrity clients are the root of all evil), i finally decided to give it another shot. i have to admit that her cooky fakakta moves are legit, even though it feels like the most insane ridiculous shit ever while doing it. this subscription program for $29 a month keeps the workouts rolling in. i’m hipcentric, if you were wondering.
- i heart this sweet little hanging wicker basket all the way from france ($12).
- speaking of wicker baskets, these circolo totes ($125) are gonna be the next big thing in wicker handbags, trust.
- look at this little set of beautiful ceramic magnolia creamers ($30).
- how about a nasty heart charm necklace ($44)? 25% of proceeds go to planned parenthood!
- this is about the prettiest fake plant ($47) i ever saw, because mom’s have to worry about keeping babies alive, don’t expect us to not kill plants too!
- because every mom could use another coffee table book, here is one with photographs of marianne faithfull ($31).
- linen sheets ($229) are still on my list. three years running. hello?
- little sachets of moon dust ($24) aka mother’s little helper. because what a drag it is getting old.
- here is a gift set ($100) that includes a bottle of rose, pink soap and bath salts, and a candle. because who doesn’t love a drunk bath? seems like a no brainer.
- i love a simple gold bracelet like this gia cuff ($28).
- have i mentioned the kate somerville as good as gold kit ($130)? about a hundred times? because i’m trying to manifest it into my life.
- pretty pretty maryam nassir zadeh palma sandals (on sale for $316+ another 10% off!).
- here is the perfect little yellow wrap dress ($72) for when your kids only give you 5 minutes to get dressed but you still want to channel your inner carrie bradshaw.
- last is a fancy polka dot swimsuit, like this beauty from lisa marie fernandez ($541) or this more affordable version from j.crew (on sale for $69+30% off!).
there’s something about getting dressed. i never realized how much time i put into the process of outfit selection until i had a baby. suddenly not only the amount of time that i had each morning but the amount of time i had alone became non-existent. the pressure of having someone in the room while getting dressed, asking for your attention can make putting together an outfit feel impossible. i believe this to be the culprit behind moms in sweatpants everywhere. getting dressed is a luxury that many women don’t have. the thing is that i always felt that it was a luxury, and one that i enjoyed even when i drove myself crazy with indecision or self-loathing over what i saw in the mirror.
giving up getting dressed was part of a loss of identity that came with motherhood for me, and looking back it’s interesting how much is involved in losing and re-finding yourself after giving birth. postpartum bodies are soft and stretched and re-arranged and things are out of place. some of them (okay most of them) never go back. pre-pregnancy clothes rarely fit after birth and you spend so much time nursing and dealing with baby fluids and insomnia that it feels pointless to get dressed anyway. the newborn phase, the first year even, is this sort of liminal period between your pre-baby self and your new self. emotionally and physically. it’s only within the last year or so that i’ve started to feel not like my old self again but like my new self. i have always thought a lot about clothes, but having a baby made me realize how much i identify through clothes.
there was a period where i didn’t know what to wear, where i reached for things that i could hide in. this is something that i have always done, at times where i felt particularly bloated or depressed or even when i had to be in business meetings or work situations where i felt i needed to be…shielded or protected in some way. my son having autism has made it really clear when i do this. having to deal with different therapists, case workers and doctors on a daily basis has made me stop to think about what i am wearing. days where i deal with a difficult person or where i feel particularly vulnerable i dress in those ways: ways where i can hide or appear blank. days where my son has no therapy or days where i get a break, i dress differently.
what women wear when they feel like shit is something that interests me a lot. as does what women buy or consume when they feel like shit. there are periods where i buy things that i don’t even particularly like, because i feel some need to disappear: to disappear into a uniform of blankness. of baggy tent dresses made of crappy stretchy synthetic non-fabrics and elastic waists and cheap acrylic sweaters that are shapeless. or something incredibly trendy that has no practical use in my life because i want to feel present or relevant or cool again.
i find the cycles that we go through of cleaning out our closets and then not just re-filling but over-filling them again really interesting. this year i have been trying to pay closer attention to those cycles. because i certainly have cycles of cleaning out my closet, vowing a life of minimal conscious dressing and then i have times where i just want to hit the mall. lose myself in 3 floors of tightly packed brightly colored items. times where i feel a real need to have more stuff, and times where that “gotta have it” feeling overcomes me. and that is a feeling that i enjoy. i’m trying not to beat myself up so much over those times, the times where i want to get rid of everything and the times where i want to buy everything. and to realize that those times are tied to moods which are most certainly fleeting. they come and they go.
part of connecting to myself as the woman that i am now: 3 years after having a baby, after leaving my career and committing to a life of caregiving, has been spending some time in my closet. being at a point where i can take a little time to get dressed has felt like getting something back that was lost. taking the time to stand in my little closet and dig around and pull things out and try them on does feel luxurious, and fun and exciting, even when it’s disappointing.