Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Autism Answer: Death Dreams and Desperation of a Young Mom

My sons are all grown or almost grown. Parenting young adult and teenage children has similarities to being the parent of very young ones. The overlaying fears, exhaustion, and all encompassing importance of the "parent" role is similar, though (thankfully!) less like a black hole. When you have teenagers, you've done some parenting growing-up yourself, and have the tools to get through it with most of your sanity intact. Meanwhile the memories of parenting small, needy children come back, almost like a dream. Distant enough to have become close to a novelty remembrance, a made-up representation of the realty it was. Almost.

When I was a young mom--and by young I mean new, though I was also young in years--I was exhausted, hormonally challenged, nutritionally zapped, desperate to prove myself and certain I was faking it and failing.

As a young mom I lived forever in an emotional state. I loved my itty bitty darlings so much, their adorableness and attempts at learning moved me to tears, claps, goofy jigs, and phone calls of cute sharing with family constantly. They also felt inseparable from myself. If my sons failed, I failed. And so sometimes I yelled or pushed too hard--figuratively and literally--in order to prove my own worth. To my family, strangers, teachers, and myself.

A young mom is a bit of a fool, and I was no exception!

But she is exhausted and gets no escape. In the few hours she sleeps, she dreams of failure. She experiences dream fears of losing children, trying to save them from impossible dangers and always failing, forever late to pick them up from school.... She is forever trying and failing and when she doesn't fail she finds ways to prove that it was a fluke, ways to prove to herself that even her successes are not her own.

During awake hours young moms sometimes daydream of death. Their own mostly, but even sometimes their children's. Usually the imagining is an accidental death. A rogue bullet, a snake bite, or a romantic disease that gives her time to say impressive goodbyes. Always they are a daydream of justified giving up. A way to quit before her parenting faults are made clear and unmistakable. 

These scary, foggy years were few for me. Perhaps five years? But they were intense and they shaped me. I never chose death, and I never gave up; justifiably or not. Instead I consistently chose the clapping, singing, goofy jigging, and joyous emotions. My mom highlighted them for me. So did my sister. So did my eventual husband and my late-to-the-party but trying dad. And sometimes, only when I really needed to know, my mom would tell me that she gets it. She would say she's been there. She would promise it gets better. Only mom could whisper these promises because in truth, she had been there. And even though I didn't exactly believe her at the time, I also didn't resent her for trying and so I listened.

I'm not saying all young moms feel like I did, but many do. And though I don't think there is much difference between parenting typical children and parenting special needs children, there is a difference that means everything. 

For special needs parents the exhaustion, hormonal issues, nutrition struggle, fears of failure... they last. They last longer. And these times are shaping moms, dads, and children. Entire families.

So I suggest supporting and helping. In the ways they are willing to accept help. You can't make them see that they are not failing, that they are beautiful and filled with great ideas and surprisingly insightful and creative solutions, but you can show them so often and so loud that the odds are some of it will get in. Some of it will be believed and heard.

This is me telling you. You are amazing and beautiful. You are doing so much right! Your children are watching you and learning from you, so show them what it looks like to feel your own worth and celebrate your skills!

We are all young at something, and we are all struggling to find our stability. Trust that you will find it, and keep smiling, loving, and laughing. That is your greatest tool and when you are stable, it will be your loudest memory. 

Your family's as well!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers

Me with three of my four sons during my desperate years.
You'll notice I was having fun.
It's important to remember to mostly have fun!
Even when you're struggling!