One of the biggest frustrations I’ve felt as a mom is the ever-present second guessing of my abilities as a parent. Couple that with a natural, heightened level of insecurity that seems to be inherent within the female gender and I often feel like I’m living with a big question mark over my head.
Why is it that we’re so hard on ourselves? And if one of our children struggles….with anything…it seems our immediate reaction is to look within ourselves for…what? Blame? Accountability? Good genes gone bad??
What is that?
I am the mother of three sons. Firstborn son has autism. Son #2 (“T”) has been diagnosed with bipolar. Son #3 is more a mainstream child. I hesitate to use the word “normal”…for what is “normal” anyway?
I’m instinctively resisting the urge to defend my decision to have three children….it’s as if I can hear the reader’s thoughts of, “Why would you want to complicate what was already a stressful life with more children?” I’ll offer only this: I’d conceived son#2 three months prior to firstborn son’s autism diagnosis…and as for son #3? Well, “the hearts wants what the heart wants”.
With all the challenges autism, depression and bipolar have placed on our lives, I honestly had no frame of reference for a “normal” family life. A day without a meltdown? Impossible.
A car ride without the inevitable argument? Not likely.
My whole concept of parenthood and raising children was being regularly and sorely tested…and I swear there have been days where I can literally feel my world shifting beneath my feet.
So, what’s a parent to do when there’s no handy book at the local bookstore that even remotely covers your child’s present stage of development? I’d stand in-between the Parenting section and the Self-Help section, screaming in my head, “THERE’S NOTHING HERE FOR ME! HE’S NOT IN ANY BOOK!”
One of the hardest things for me to accept was that my life wasn’t going to follow the path I’d always imagined; the one filled with storybook play dates with angelic children happily playing while their mommies drank coffee and swapped recipes for the best cupcakes ever.
But letting go of that fantasy is what finally allowed me to stop perpetually fighting that inevitable “tide of expectation”…and it’s made me realize that sometimes, having no pre-conceived expectations is the path to unexpected happiness.
I’ve learned that sometimes, a diagnosis is nothing more than a word on a piece of paper. Maybe that particular word will help your loved one to get the services they need to feel better…either way, they’re the same person they were before that diagnosis.
I fought the notion of being “different”. I didn’t care if my children weren’t geniuses…but the notion of them not “fitting in” consumed me. It took me a long time to understand that by denying their need to process life differently, I was making it harder on all of us to cope.
I came to realize that parents of “mainstream” children don’t question every reaction…don’t panic at every quirk. They realize that each of us is an individual…and we all have our own way of reacting to the good, the bad and the ugly that life inevitably throws at us.
I’ve always known I loved my boys…but it took me a long time to understand that I didn’t need to re-define “normal”…I just needed to unconditionally accept them for who they are. I’ll do everything I can to help them navigate their world the best they can…and as long as they always remember I’m here for them, then I do believe that’ll be enough.