It’s Mother’s Day in the UK. Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers and female care givers, I hope you have had a fantastic day being loved and appreciated for all that you do and all that you are. For Mother’s Day today I received breakfast in bed, complete with son and crumbs, the treat of watching with him videos that I had recorded of him on my phone and have seen many times before but he was desperate to watch again because he never gets tired of seeing himself on video, a wrestling bout, a loving message in a card and a present that he forgot to give me until reminded by my husband because he was so keen to get in bed and give me my card and watch himself on my phone.
In truth, I love it all. Of course I do. As you may have gathered from references in previous posts, my son is autistic. Being the parent of a child with special needs has challenged me and caused me to learn and grow in certain areas. One of the ways I have grown through my experiences with my son is in learning to celebrate being different from the mainstream. Our life events don’t run as I anticipated they would when I imagined parenthood. Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, family vacations: they’re all conducted in our own unique style thanks to our son. Today was no exception.
For much of my life I was desperate to fit in. Always a sensitive child, I hated to be laughed at or teased. In my twenties and thirties I went through several fads trying to find an identity that fit. Raised in a family that frowned upon holding your own values and boundaries, I had difficulty knowing who I was and what I believed in and being confident enough to express that. I was afraid of being rejected, of being “wrong” or not good enough and I lived with great anxiety.
Somewhere along the way, amongst all the chaos and the stress and embarrassment, I learned to let it all go.
Having an autistic son bulldozed right through those fears. When your child becomes hysterical on the bus because he feels travel sick you are going to be stared at and tutted at. When your child insists on sitting on the pavement in the middle of town and refuses to move because there’s a balloon ahead and he’s scared of balloons you will attract curious looks from passers by. When your child eats with his fingers because cutlery is too fiddly and eats only bread and butter and none of the main meal because the chips are too thick and he only likes breaded fish not battered fish and he keeps trying to walk out of the cafe because he’s bored and doesn’t see why we can’t just go right now before you’ve finished eating and have paid, people will form judgements about you. When he refuses to speak or ignores someone speaking to him, when he asks blunt questions or interrupts your conversation or talks over someone else, when he walks in a funny way or pulls funny faces or honks out a weird laugh, it will raise eyebrows. When you have a child with special needs you will stick out; you are different from other families and there’s no hiding it. Somewhere along the way, amongst all the chaos and the stress and embarrassment, I learned to let it all go. Those people who judge me as a parent don’t know any of the personal challenges I have overcome to be a better and more understanding mother. They don’t know my son and the enormous leaps he has made in navigating a world he had to learn instead of being born innately understanding. They know nothing of neither me and my family nor our circumstances, and their opinions don’t matter.
I love all the weird ways we have adapted and overcome. I love how we celebrate events our own way. While I may struggle to be confident in asserting my own needs, I have no trouble asserting the needs of my son or appreciating how we live our life. I no longer wish for or worry that we don’t have a mainstream life. This is what we have, this is what we are, we’re making it work and we’re (mostly) happy. What more can a mother ask for, on any day?
Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, I hope you achieve the confidence to be who you are, unashamedly. Celebrate your achievements, enjoy the process and never stop becoming even more of what makes you great.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums and female care givers. I hope you enjoyed your day, however you chose to spend it.