Tag Archives: mother

Once Upon A Time (Part 3)

Part one and two are ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.

So this woman who was once a troubled girl, now the mother to two small children, one of whom was a beautiful little girl with curly white/blonde locks and chubby cheeks and dimpled knees, wondered how she ever gave birth to such perfection.  She was filled with gratitude and felt each of her children were gifts, tiny gifts that she was being given the opportunity to influence and even direct, but who were their own people, with their own temperaments and personalities, unique and wonderful in their own right.  She believed this fiercely.  But do not forget, this woman lived for many years of her adult life, prior to giving birth to her two wonderful children, believing she was bad.  She imagined that inside of her there was darkness, as though there was a bad seed deep within her soul and for many, many years she had tried to purge that badness from her being.  She believed she needed to be “fixed” and that left to her own devices she was fundamentally flawed and that if people got to know her, they too would learn this truth about her and it was only a matter of time before she was found out until others who had once felt similarly about themselves, convinced her that this was untrue.  These people showed her over time that in fact there was tremendous goodness within her and they taught her how to nurture that goodness and how to behave in ways that fostered it and encouraged it to grow and even flourish.

But then, now years later, she saw aspects of herself in her daughter.  Behaviors she used to do, but no longer did.  Her daughter loved to look at photographs and there were a great many to view.  Her daughter liked to sit on the floor with more than a hundred photographs piled in front of her and quickly scan them.  If one was missing, her daughter knew instantly and began to howl in great distress.  The mother watched in confusion as this scene unfurled.  The daughter, perfectly happy one minute, and then in terrible agony the next could not be consoled and would hurt herself by punching herself in the face or biting her hand or arm.  And something inside the mother clicked.  She recognized this desire to control her pain.  It took her back to a time when she needed things to be a certain way and when they were not she felt her entire life was unraveling and that her very existence was put into jeopardy and the only release from the horror was to hurt herself.  There was a kind of twisted logic to all of this, her self-induced pain, a pain that at least she could control, though awful, was not as terrible as her rampant and erratic feelings and somewhere along the way that self-induced pain made her feel she could endure, at least for a little while.

Now here was her daughter behaving, it seemed to her, in similar ways, expressing the agony she once knew so intimately.  She had no words to describe what she was witnessing, but she thought she could feel what her daughter was feeling, the despair, the pain, the fear that if the photograph was not immediately found she might die.  The mother believed this was what her daughter was going through and because she had lived through similar feelings she thought she would be able to help her.  She would provide her with the same sort of safety net she had been given.  A place to land, as it were, a safe space where her daughter could feel comforted, except that the things she said and did, did not provide her daughter with the comfort the mother expected and hoped she would feel.

You see, the mother forgot that her daughter was not a mirror of herself.  The mother forgot the thing that she knew when she gave birth to each of her children – that they were their own unique beings, quite separate and individual from anyone else.  She forgot all of this in her fear and worry over what she was witnessing and imagined her child was feeling and doing.  So she began to look outside herself for answers.  People, many, many people told her that they knew what would help and she listened to them.  These people spoke of her daughter using language all too familiar to the mother.  They used words like “broken,” “disorders,” “pervasive” and likened her neurology to cancer, which to the mother sounded a great deal like what she once thought of herself.  They said her daughter was part of an epidemic and that various methodologies would “treat” her disorder and might even reverse and cure her if done quickly and everyday for many, many hours.  The mother listened to all of these people and nodded her head as these people put into words what she had once believed to be true about herself.

Had she done this to her child?  Had she somehow passed along the worst aspects of herself to this beautiful, innocent child.  Was this some sort of karmic payback for all those years the mother had spent living a selfish, self-involved life?  Was her daughter the direct result of every mistake she’d made?  Was this really how life worked?  She could not believe this, at least not logically.  She refused to believe her daughter was being sacrificed for the sins of her mother.  She refused to believe there was some greater omnipotent power that would cause her daughter so much physical, emotional and psychic pain and yet she was terribly, terribly confused and somewhere she could not fully let herself off the hook.  Somewhere, unconsciously, she believed she was to blame for all that was causing her child pain and turmoil.  And if she was to blame, then she knew she, and she alone must make it right.

(To be continued) contemplation

Autism – Daughters (continued)

I so wanted a little girl, I so looked forward to having a little girl who would feel safe enough to confide in me, the way I have always felt able to confide in my own mother.  (I feel a great deal of gratitude for that.)  I know how fortunate I am to have an amazing mom.  I have conversations with friends who audibly groan when the subject of their own mothers come up.

“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother,” is something I’ve heard on more than a few occasions, uttered by exasperated adult children.  The famously “bad mothers” occupy several shelves of literature, poetry, plays and movies.  We all know them by name and every few years a few more get tossed onto the pile.  Beyond enjoying the guilty deer-stuck-in-the-headlights-horror of those stories, I cannot relate to them, thankfully.

My mother taught me how to sew and macrame, (this was the 60’s & 70’s) embroider, quilt and knit.  She showed me how to bake bread, make baclava, beef wellington and a fifty layer Daubache Torte.  I think I can justifiably credit my mother for my love of design and current career.  She read stories to me at bedtime and sang songs.  I remember sitting on the vanity in her bathroom as she got dressed to go out to a party.  I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.  I watched her as her hair turned grey and her fingers became deformed by arthritis.  I spoke with her about the aches and pains that come with growing old.  I looked to her the way one consults a Michelin Guide in a foreign country, she has always shown me the way.

Perhaps it is the same for Emma, I cannot know.  I know she feels connected to me as I do her.  I know when she wants something and I can often understand what she’s trying to say, even when the words come out wrong.  Lately she has even run to me when she’s hurt, though more often than not, I will have to prompt her, much the way I still must remind her to – “wrap your arms around and squeeze” when she hugs.

“You have to go see the nurse!”  Emma will shout when she hurts herself.  Then she’ll hightail it into our bathroom where she knows we keep a large supply of bandaids.

“Hey, Em!  How about coming to see nurse mommy?” I’ll ask blocking her way.

“Ouch!  Emma has a boo-boo!”  Emma will tell me, wiping the tears from her eyes, but keeping her distance.  Unlike neuro-typical children who instinctively seek out the comfort of a parent when hurt, Emma will instead cry out for the school nurse or say nothing and just take care of things on her own.  Often this means returning with a half dozen bandaids applied to various parts of her body, making it difficult to know exactly which part was hurt.

I think the thing about all of this that’s perhaps most important, is, while I don’t have the relationship with Emma that I envisioned when I was pregnant with her, we do have a relationship.  It’s a different relationship than I have with my mother.  But it is a relationship and it continues to evolve.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com