Thursday, May 5, 2016

Redefining Mother's Day for Autism Moms

The ideal Mother's Day for me would be with my family at one of my favorite places on earth, Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

I have written articles about Mother’s Day in the past. Mostly from the collective point of view of those I know who have more “normal lives” and those who are touched by autism.  Each offering different bits of advice on how to push through, practical tips for the day, or just basic encouragement to let those out there know, they are not alone. This article originally appeared in my Examiner Column May 2014

Re-defining Mother's Day

Mother’s Day means something different to everyone. To my fellow Autism Moms, it is bittersweet. We may share some of the glory and some of the same pain as other moms of course, but we are not other moms either. Just as single parents, same-sex couples and other situations too numerous to list across the globe have their own set of challenges, so do we.

We like other moms are grateful for our children and love them. We will cherish any kind of art project they have created with their occupational therapist or art therapist. We may not get to hear our children say I love you, if we are lucky, we know they do. In many households, Mother’s Day is just another day.

It is a day full of stress, redirection and putting out fires-usually not literal, but sometimes.  A day full of explaining the same information that you have already over-explained about 10 times as much as you would for a typical child. And typical, is not really something you know anymore, because every day is different, and there isn’t much typical about it. You are changing diapers on your child who is over the age of an age where diapers should be part of it. You are also doing other activities in the self-care category that should no longer be part of your day such as dressing and feeding. You have spent an enormous amount of time in your kitchen. And dealt with any number of meltdowns, some of which that resulted in an injury to yourself. If you were able to use a phone, chances are you have been constantly interrupted (15-20 times during any 10 minute call) thus conditioning you that calling people is a negative behavior.

All of these things are part of it, all of them are things you work on daily. But there is no magic button to make it go away. It just takes time and patience. 

All moms have a less intense version of these things when their children are little, but on Mother’s Day come the rewards. The hugs, kisses and sweet things said. Breakfast in bed, or a meal out, special presents made by the kiddies and something special from the hubby. But in autism house most of the time you will not receive a gift they made because they can’t sit long enough to make something. You will not likely get a hug or a kiss because these are too painful for your child and doesn't come into their normal thought process. Your child may not even speak, so no sweet things to be said, and if your child does have any language they normally are just asking for something. And because you are likely in enormous debt up to your ears, no real gifts from the hubby because you just can’t justify spending your grocery or therapy money on jewelry or even dollar store socks.

Children with autism teach us much; they teach us what it means to be human. How we all can feel tired, scared and threatened. How we sometimes really want what we want, exactly when we need it, because maybe we have been waiting a very long time. And this also teaches us the value of patience. It teaches us the value of being in a civilized society, the value of rules and the value in sometimes breaking those rules.  They teach us to rise above their terrible behavior and love them anyway, because we all deserve to be loved. And deep down, we know part of them does love us, even if they can’t show it.

Mother’s Day can give you the opportunity to love and embrace the miracles of autism, and not focus on the negative aspects. Maybe this is just for a few moments before your child is awake, or after they are in bed. Perhaps your child has been reading at a very young age, Maybe they are a human calculator or can operate a computer better than you. ASD kids take so many things literally and that can be funny.(I keep a list of things my son says to enjoy). Maybe they have taught you about life, judgement and respect. You can also chose to celebrate how far they have come, how they can sit longer in a chair, are starting to write, or use a real cup. Maybe they can say mom now, when before it was just grunting.  Or maybe your child can finally swing on a swing or ride a bike. All of these things are reasons to celebrate this “Mother’s Day”. It like most things is a choice you can make. For you do not deserve to be unhappy, if happy is what you want to be.

For me however, Mother's Day will proceed much like I have mentioned in this article.  I will chose to find the best in it when possible.

Skipping Mother's Day (excerpt from Examiner Column May 2016
 Over the years, the more new holidays creep into the calendar, the more work it all seems to be. Not that I don’t enjoy celebrating, I like many of you, just don’t get to. Our lives run at a different pace due to the need of additional work to pay for the costs of autism, and well because of the differences in our lives from autism. Mother’s Day is usually not celebrated in this house.

For More see this year's Examiner Article posted here, sorry these are the rules of copyright

Whichever it is for your household, I wish you a happy day, Mother’s Day or otherwise.

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