Even though I know better, sometimes it’s hard not to feel like a failure.
Kids get older. Things change. People change, and circumstances change. It’s never easy – this type of parenting. But it gets so complicated as the children grow. It’s so different; a big change. I’m autistic. I don’t like change. I’m scared of change. I can’t control things when they change…
So much of friendship and socializing at this age depends upon the parent to arrange/facilitate/develop the connections. To model it as well. It’s especially important when you know that your child can’t/won’t do it for themselves. But what complicates the matter is that I can’t do it either. I’m not made that way. I’m not like other moms.
I can’t be the Room Mom.
I can’t chat it up every day at pick up and drop off with other parents.
I can’t handle the loud, crowded birthday parties.
I’m not savvy enough to score play dates with classmates for my kids.
I haven’t heard that song or read that magazine article.
I haven’t watched that show or that sports game.
I don’t have cooking or decorating tips to share.
I am anxious about lock-ins, sleepovers, and other activities where I can’t assure my kids safety.
I don’t like being out in the elements.
I don’t like not having a plan.
I want you all to have friends. You need friends, right? It’s a part of life/development/coming of age? I know you’re content alone, or with family, but maybe you need more too? And just don’t know it, because I’m not doing a good job at giving it to you? I’m cultivating you to think it’s okay to be like me…maybe you don’t want to be like me? Maybe you want to be kind of like them too?
How do I get you friends? How do I play the game right, so these moms won’t think I’m a freak and they will consider letting you in? And then if we pass that barrier, we still don’t even know if you will make friends with their child. Maybe you won’t have anything in common. Maybe it’s too much hassle. Maybe they will think you’re weird – and then I will shut the whole thing down, because I’m not going to let anyone shun or hurt my baby. Maybe you just won’t be in the mood to exert the spoons to try something new like meeting a classmate in an unfamiliar environment on that particular day – which I understand. Maybe…maybe…maybe…
I’m too much. Of everything. Too much for everyone, maybe even myself. I overthink everything, overdo everything, over-stress over everything – and end up not accomplishing anything.
The mom stuff. The small talk. I can do it in small doses. But I can’t sustain it over time, not being me. I have to be me. I want to be me. But I will be something else if I have to if it will benefit you. Just to gain you access, get you through the door. Once you are inside, prayerfully how wonderful you are will be apparent. I just need to get them to see you – really see you. I will be whatever I need to be – for you. But I only want you to be YOU. Don’t change for anyone. You are perfect. Do as I say, not as I do…don’t be like me.
Here we are. I am devastated. I try, and fail. And then because I have previously failed I am plagued with trepidation and doubt. Which makes it even harder to try again. Which makes me suck at it even more. You don’t have any friends. I don’t think you do. You don’t seem to miss not having any. You don’t seem to care. Is that normal? Am I making you friendless, abnormal? You smile every day. Is it real? Are you really happy? Is this enough for you? Am I giving you enough, showing you enough? Am I trying hard enough? Doing enough? For you?
My child. My children. My loves. You are the reason I draw breath. Am I failing you? How can I help you do something I don’t even know how to do? How can I teach you something I have never been good at? How can I get them – other kids – to accept you, want to know you, to like you – when I can’t navigate the parent layer that guards the gate?
All people don’t socialize the same way. Deep down inside me I know there’s nothing wrong with who I am, with how I am. That even if I wasn’t an autistic mom I shouldn’t have to feel forced to conform to contrived social gender norms of how a “mom” is supposed to be with regard to supporting her children in having friendships.
I know this…cognitively. But that doesn’t make me immune to the messages that whisper that I am nothing like what I am supposed to be as a mother. That I’m doing it all wrong. That I am making them social misfits. That my failure to be able to do these things that come so easily to other moms is going to, and already is, having a negative impact on them. That they are going to suffer in life because of this, because me, and that I am therefore an inadequate mother.
I believe in acceptance. I write about acceptance. I present about acceptance. I teach about acceptance.
But if I’m going to be real with myself and with you, the truth is LIVING that acceptance in all areas of your life in all ways at all times…it’s hard. I don’t always succeed.
I don’t have answer to any of my questions. I still don’t know if I’m doing this right or wrong. I want to so much for you. To be happy. I don’t want you to ever go through what I went through. I don’t want you to ever feel broken. I don’t want you to ever BE broken.
I don’t want you to ever know what it’s like. To live with these voices in your head. That tell you you’re not enough, never enough. I evicted them from my head, but they came back when I had you. I’m okay being just me if it was only me. But I don’t know if just me – as I am – is good for you. Is right for you. Is enough for you.
I just want to be the mom you need – without losing me.
Somehow, I will find my way.