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Autism Momisms: 'The Dream'

'The Dream'. We all have it before our children are born. But what happens if things don't quite happen as we expect?

A few nights ago, after managing a rather long and tempestuous battle, I lay in bed and thought to myself... Have the lambs stopped screaming yet, Clarice?  

You see, with all of the noise, I thought I must have somehow stumbled into a horror flick.  Soon enough, I remembered it was only my daughter having a tantrum.  I’m quite convinced she has a great future in cinematography.  At least her flair for dramatics would indicate as much. 

This time, the trigger was over her bedtime attire.  She thought it would be a good idea to wear a summer nightgown to bed.  Given the 20 degree temperature outside, I felt otherwise and stood firm by my conviction.  Thus began a brutal tug-of-war battle between a five-year-old girl, her frazzled mother and a pink princess nightgown.

An hour later, my daughter finally asleep, a pile of woulda-coulda-shouldas began infesting my brain… Maybe if I woulda just let her wear it, she coulda learned her lesson... let her see for herself how cold it gets. No, no, no she woulda not made this connection and coulda got sick. Then I woulda had to carry her, kicking and screaming, to the doctor. Maybe I shoulda just taken the gown out of the drawer before winter started. Why do I never think of these things beforehand? I can’t expect her to understand all of this yet, she has Autism!   

She has Autism.   

I will readily admit, I have a bad habit of throwing the A-card into any mix.  I can’t seem to help it, as it does often present a difficult set of challenges. However, A-card or not, every parent goes through these battles and the nasty woulda-coulda-shouldas that follow. It’s natural to think too deeply into things. These are our kids. We want the best for them.

It all begins with ‘the dream’ – the one we have before our children are born. It’s the dream of having the most accomplished child in the world; straight A’s, lots of friends and excelling at everything he or she attempts, while we, the parents, sit on the bleachers and jubilantly call… That’s my boy!  That’s my girl!  

Through my first pregnancy, I had ‘the dream’, and throughout my son’s infancy, I held it firmly in both fists.

Parenting my son proved unexpectedly challenging. His behavior was different from the other children his age and his development lagged behind as well. Despite this, his pediatrician never seemed concerned, so I began questioning myself. After all, I’d followed the same recipe as my mother when she'd raised me. Was I a terrible cook, or a terrible mother?    

Finally, we moved to Lilburn, and after seeing a new pediatrician, my son was referred to several psychiatric experts who diagnosed him as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. On one hand, I felt relieved because I finally had an answer. I wasn’t a terrible mother after all. On the other hand, I was absolutely terrified. At the time, my only point of reference was the movie, “Rainman”. I had not anticipated this. This was not part of ‘the dream’. That’s not my boy.

That’s not my girl.    

Count your blessings. This is usually the first thing any observer will advise, and true, it is healthy to do during any difficult ordeal. What I’ve learned from these experiences is it’s also quite healthy to grieve the loss of ‘the dream’. After all, with any diagnosis, one often begins with Denial. It is only through the stages of grief we can finally reach Acceptance. How else is one expected to recognize the pieces, pick them up and move on?

Once moving again, you realize, yes, ‘the dream’ is indeed gone. However, you’ve now awakened to real life now – one that will surely unfold into something more beautiful than a dream. You just have to wake up, open your eyes and see it.

I am the mother of two children living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder; my son, age 8, and my daughter, age 5.  Our journey so far has taught me to never take a single word, smile, or moment of eye-contact for granted. This makes me just like every other parent - each of my children just like every other child. Our lives are really not so different. The only difference is often in how we are perceived. 

I won’t lie to you, there are still days when I feel angry over our particular set of circumstances. Other days, I often wonder if they are putting the wrong people in the spectrum. Writing about it all allows me to gain the proper perspective.  Sharing it through this blog, I hope it does the same for others. 

I am honored to be given the opportunity to write an Autism Blog for Patch. Mind you, I don’t consider myself an Autism expert, rather a 40-whatever-year-old mother with some experience on the subject and a propensity towards sarcastic humor. Right now, I send these words from atop an embarrassingly large island of unfolded laundry. The only things missing are a lawn chair, a pina colada and… well, the ocean, unless you count the blue water in the nearby toilet. 

Whether you have children in the spectrum or not, I hope you’ll be able to relate, gain something positive within my words, even if only a smile. Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll return again.   

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Janie Ruth February 11, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Hello Marlene. My heart goes out to you, as well as other parents with older children in the spectrum. I can't even imagine how much more difficult it must have been raising a child with Autism prior to the 21st century, much less 30 years ago! Even today, the day-to-day lives and issues of adults in the spectrum are not highlighted nearly enough. We only hear about the young children. For this reason, I love hearing from parents like you with older children in the spectrum because it's a perspective I don't yet have but would like to provide a voice. Love your idea of sharing information. Until I can set up something better, please feel free to email me at autismmomisms at yahoo dot com. Thanks for reaching out, Marlene!
Janie Ruth February 11, 2012 at 03:02 PM
We'd love to see you again sometime, Ronnie. Did we made good decisions? Yes, absolutely. As long as we do the best we can with the information we have at the time, it's always a good decision. Did I carry away any hard lessons from them? You bet, and I will most likely share them here in the future. We don't yet have all the answers for Autism, thus we're still somewhat the pioneers in all this. Our decisions are often going to be a shot in the dark. Some will light the way and some won't. Still all good, because I firmly believe my daughter will grow up stronger from everything we did or will do for her. Things always happen a certain way for a certain good reason.
Mekonnen Askale April 02, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Janie Thank you for your beautifull blog. I have son who is in spectrum . I am from Africa I came to US with big dream of a better life, when we found out our son has autism I was crushed, but I am so glad my son was born here I can't even imagine what will I do if I had him back home, every single day I thank God for my blessing- my son.
Janie Ruth April 02, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Thank you for your comment, Mekonnen! I'm very glad you came to the US, too. I have found that things always happen for a very good reason. :)
Lynn Hubbard April 18, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Welcome to patch! My son has fibro and is extra sensitive. Even today he still picks out his clothes by feel rather than look. They have to be soft and or silky. Here's his story: http://healthmad.com/teen-health/fibromyalgia-in-teens/

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