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Am I A Good Mother?

September 21, 2009

I’m following along several other bloggers who are inspired by this fabulous, thought-provoking, empowering post from Rebecca at Girls Gone Child. If you haven’t yet heard of it in blogosphere, go read it. It’s worth the read by itself but what I’m about to say will not make much sense without understanding how this got started.

The point of her blog was to help us moms (and dads too) reclaim ourselves as good, great, even amazing parents.

please pause while I give it a standing ovation.

There was one line in particular in Rebecca’s blog that really struck a cord with me. She said, “Claiming to be bad parents is the new ‘I’m fat’ for even the thinnest of women.” I completely get what Rebecca is talking about. I understand it and have seen it in action.

I just wish that was as far as it went with me. Sure, I’ve jokingly called myself a bad mother when I confessed how I folded the Spare’s cheese into squares and not in rectangles. Everyone who read that knew it was tongue in cheek.

But the whole feeling of being a bad mother goes a bit deeper for me.

I spent my early parenting years (well, the first two years, so really almost all of my parenting to date) feeling much like a failure because I have this child I could barely manage. And I don’t mean barely manage as in the rough days here and there, oh this mothering stuff is tough, because it is a tough job.

I mean barely managing as in I have a child I sometimes can not control. I mean tantrums so out of control he injures himself, how he would purposely injure himself as a small toddler. I’m talking biting himself until he bruised and banging his head in anger until he had a goose egg.

I have a child who will rarely accept a hug from me. My son turns away from my affection. Or he will let me hug him and stay stiff that non-verbally screamed…get off!…and leaves me feeling rejected. He will rarely let me comfort him when he is crying, upset or hurt. I can’t make him feel better with a kiss or a touch. He pulls away or cries even harder when I do.

I even have zero control over what shirt the kid wears…this began at 20 months old. I can not control something so simple as what shirt he puts on. Oh, I could force it. I could physically restrain him & wrestle that polo shirt on while he kicked and screamed but he would keep kicking & screaming long after I put it on him. And wherever it was we were going, he would continue being out of control there too.

Over a damn shirt.

And no, a shirt isn’t that big of a deal. But a shirt on top of everything else, on top of the nothing else I can do right with this child….

Those few examples just skim the barrel of life as a parent to the Heir. Other parents all around me don’t have the kind of problems I have with my son. They can control their toddlers and kids within reason.

I sometimes can not.

Within reason? What was that and how did it apply to my son?

Parenting techniques & solutions that work so well they have been passed down for generations do not work for me. Advice from these other parents in control don’t even work. The common sense, tried and true solutions don’t work. It has to be me. I am the problem. Because everyone else can make these things work and their children are good, reasonable, malleable. But I just can’t manage to do it.

Damn right I feel like a bad mother. Damn skippy I feel as if I’m a failure at this mother gig.

That was before I heard or knew the terms Aspergers, high functioning autism, autistic spectrum, sensory integration. I spent the first 2 years not knowing his behavior problems could possibly be one of those above disorders and not because I am a bad mother.

So for me personally, thinking & saying “I’m a bad mother” isn’t the new “I’m fat.”

Just like those early years are the most formative for the children, what if they are also the most formative for the parent and their self-image too? And it isn’t like a magic light has turned on in the Heir’s mind and all of the troubling behavior is a thing of the past. I’m still faced on a pretty damn regular basis with situations where I feel like a failure again. Of not knowing what to do with him, how to handle him, how to help him. I still feel helpless a lot. Old habits die hard.

I’m still in the process of healing myself of all of the doubts, guilt, and mostly self- blame. Because it’s only been about a year or so that I even knew autism was a possibility. And we still don’t know if it is for sure because that’s the road we’re on right now. I might never know exactly what it is that makes my son tick the way he ticks. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe I don’t have to know. He is what he is and it is up to me as his mother to find ways to help him thrive, regardless of what it is called.

After reading Rebecca’s post and I asked myself how I’m an amazing parent when it comes to the Heir, I had to stop and think. And think. And think. Because it isn’t easy to sift through all of the hardness of raising him and get to the good. But I’m doing it and doing it more on a regular basis than I use too. I’m beginning to focus more on the good and not the worries, which is why I haven’t really written about the problems with him before. I don’t want “abnormal” or “wrong” to be my focus with him anymore.

Friends truly are treasures and Jennifer’s post was exactly what I needed to read to get some positive feelings going. And I began to realize some other things.

I’m a good mother because I am his advocate and his voice while he is still too young to understand what is going on inside of him.

I’m a good mother because I now get that physical touch feels different to him and I ask if I can have a hug instead of just taking one. I give him the opportunity to decide what his body can handle at that moment and I respect him when he says no, not right now. I don’t make him feel guilty for turning down affection from his mom.

I’m a great mother because I take him shopping to pick out his own clothes, even if it means going to two dozen stores and touching over 200 shirts to make sure they “feel right” to him.

I’m a great mother because I support his focused & very real passion for the ocean and all marine life. I do all that I can to encourage his love of nature & learn right along with him.

I’m an amazing mother because I try to peel back all of the things society labels as abnormal and know he is something more than I’ll ever be.

I’m an amazing mother because I have faith that somehow all of his sensory issues and quirks will serve some higher purpose for him, even if I can’t see how yet. I have faith in him.

I am an amazing mother!

I’m feeling really gushy right now and want to thank all of my friends who have been there with me through this journey, seeing that there is something more to the Heir than usual, being the ones to remind me that I am not a bad mother when I really didn’t feel it at all, and also for helping me see the wonderful in him too. All of you have supported and uplifted me more than you’ll probably ever know.

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