The other day, a fellow autism mom posted to a Facebook group, asking for other parents’ feedback and suggestions for how to cope when things feel too stressful – and feeling on the verge of a breakdown.
Typically, being a Son-Rise parent, I feel that at the very least, I always have a plan that includes a positive outlook and 3E’s (Energy, excitement and enthusiasm) to help my son grow, since at its base, The Son-Rise Program® is largely attitudinal. I’ve chosen to adopt these feelings and beliefs because they have enriched my life immensely and inspired so much growth within my son.
But reading her post, I was touched by the responses — which echoed my own reply to her and resonated deeply within me — exactly what, I, too, needed to hear for myself. All of a sudden, these superheroic fathers and mothers who always have a plan and words of strength touched my core with words of empathy, understanding, and vulnerability. Cushioning. Every single response to her question was spoken with compassion and echoed the sounds of ‘pamper yourself’, ‘let yourself have the meltdown’, ‘love yourself more,’ ‘exercise’, ‘take care of yourself…’
It just so happens, that these words of wisdom came to me during a rough patch of my own. Lately, I too have been feeling my share of doom and gloom. I’ve essentially asked the majority of my son’s volunteers to leave our team in order to reinspire new energy into his program. With a less structured therapy program at play, there have been many hours just him and I during the long days, to bond, connect, explore. This time has been so valuable to me, but it’s also been a new place for me to assess my life and analyze the situation in a light I have purposefully avoided for some time.
I often feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, just like Superman: needed, essential, and indispensable. I usually take my autism momma superpowers in stride — cleaning up explosive poop, using my x-ray vision to decipher the needs and wants of my non-verbal child, exercising superhuman strength during a time and community where the feelings of hopelessness and despair are ubiquitous and commonplace, flying with superhuman speed from one adventure to the next – (everywhere from fermenting coconut water to saving my neurotypical toddler’s face from being mauled or to catch my toothbrush from becoming the next toilet scrubber), and of course my powers of eidetic memory, allowing me to remember each and every symptom experienced by my son, almost like time-travel through my mind to the very incident, date and location of previous occurrence, triggering a memory of causation or relief to call upon for the present day’s behaviors or expressions.
But also like Superman, who was plopped on earth from his home of Krypton, I often feel like I didn’t get a choice in having my superpowers and so I dream of being able to just enjoy the simple life of Clark Kent. Lately, I’ve been living in my ‘internal Clark’ more than usual, feeding my desire for relief from full-time superhero duty. Also, being the youngest Thinking Mom in the pack, (having gotten married at the young age of 21 and giving birth to my ASD son by 23) I often wonder if I missed out on all the fun. I crave exploring the world, visiting other countries and bonding with different people. I sit here now, still in my twenties, thinking – wow. I wish I could just run away. I wish that I wasn’t so NEEDED. I wish I could be selfish again.
Much like Superman, I struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to make a difference in the world, or in my case, my son’s world, but also wanting to sometimes be free of responsibility and duty to society. Being a superhero isn’t always easy – it can be very isolating and intense exhausting work. (Luckily for me, unlike Superman, I’m surrounded by hundreds of other superheroes online, which help give me so much strength). I also assume this role because just like Superman, being a Thinking Mom, I possess a deep sense of social justice, a yearning for truth and peace for our kids and I use my idealism and love for our special children to drive me, despite the attempts of the profiteers, lynch mobs and gangsters out for their greed no matter the consequence.
Lately, as I’ve reflected upon my life and called upon my Clark Kent persona, I embrace this struggle and love and accept my plight, just as I would love and accept my son’s unique behaviors. Just like my fellow-autism parent who wrote her posting looking for permission to have a breakdown, I am comforted by letting down my guard sometimes. The fact of the matter is — I did miss out on a lot. There are lots of experiences I wouldn’t leave my family right now to partake in, but I still ache to have. It feels good and validating to me to recognize this and it helps me appreciate myself and the strength I possess, when making tough choices every day. I think that letting myself feel these feelings, allows me to have a more authentic relationship with myself, and ultimately with my son.
If you’re having a rough day, or week, or even month! – Let yourself have it. Sometimes superheroes need to rest. But in case you doubted your son or daughter’s purpose in your life, I remind us both what a blessing autism can be as we heal our child and we heal ourselves.
While feeling these things, yesterday, wholly consumed in myself, I wandered into the living room where my son was ism-ing (or stimming) on the couch. I turned in his direction, where I was met with a set of the most pure, sharp, innocent eyes peering straight into mine, with a faultless lack of awareness of my feelings. I walked toward him and he delighted in the connection. I picked him up and we danced around the room, his laughter contagious and inebriating. In all my sadness and gloom about autism, it was my son’s autism and innocence that saved me in that moment. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to dissect it anymore. That glance, innocent, pure and refreshingly oblivious – had the power to pull my soul out from the depths of despair and evoke a call to action, excitement and deep hope from within me once again.
With that, I threw on my cape, and flew into his arms, ready yet again to save the world. In those precious moments, I lost myself in his embrace and relished in the moment, my tears of sadness, instantly turned to joy.
I guess being a superhero has its perks after all.