After blogging anonymously for many years in other places I decided to write under my own name here at the Mess and I’ve never regretted it. I’m pretty comfortable being who I am and saying what I think and not feeling like I have to hide it.
But lately I’ve been paranoid. There are parts of my life where I’ve lost total control. Divorce does that. There are now other people–lawyers and a judge–who will be involved in the decision making for some pretty big stuff. Money, custody, these biggest things in my life are now out of my hands.
I feel like I want good things for my kids, I feel like my decisions would be reasonable, but my feelings aren’t so relevant anymore. And I’ve started to worry that if I show anything except absolute devotion and fulfillment in my mothering that I’ll be found unworthy of being a full-time parent to my kids.
It’s important to me to talk about parenting honestly.
From the day Graham was born it’s been a struggle. My children are beautiful and amazing and difficult. Nearly every day with them I’m pushed to the end of my patience several times. They bring out the worst and the best in me.
Sometimes they make me crazy. Sometimes I want a break. Sometimes I can’t wait until bedtime. But if I say that will it mean someone sees me as less than an ideal parent? Will it affect the likelihood I remain my kids’ primary parent? Will my tweets be entered into evidence? Will there be furrowed eyebrows if I have a glass of wine after the kids are in bed?
I don’t believe parents are perfect. No one should expect them to be. But this isn’t about what I think anymore.
I used to feel free to let myself say just what I thought and now I am worried I have to censor myself. I worry that I’m losing my honesty and my voice, things that matter to me a lot.
Sure, it’s easy to say Be true to yourself. Say what you think. Don’t hold back. Everything will work itself out. But I don’t think I believe that. It’s no big deal when it’s the faceless world and I don’t feel like I have to defend myself. This is different.
It’s possible none of it will end up mattering and right now I’m just being overly cautious. But until I know better I’m just feeling yet another loss. So many losses, I have yet to escape them.
Besides feeling somewhat muzzled I’m also feeling like I’ll be an amoeba under a microscope. I’m not internet famous. I’m not used to people really caring that much about what I do or say. My friends and family don’t read my blog religiously. But now there may be people paying attention to every little thing I say to decide what it means about me as a person and a parent.
I tend to be pretty confident about a lot of things. Parenting has never really been one of them. Being a mother exposes me to a host of vulnerabilities because the stakes are so high. There are lives in the balance. And as much as I can rationally tell myself that I just need to be there for them and do the best I can and they will find their own way, it’s hard to let that penetrate deep down into my darkest places.
Autism doesn’t help with that either. Like most people I expected my children to be precocious and smart, I expected them to be like I was as a child. I always wanted to be a grown-up. I was a bossy oldest sister and a quiet, locked-in-her-room reader. This is not what happened, of course. These early years of my children’s lives have been fraught with worry and stress and milestones that always seem to come late. I’ve always felt supremely unqualified for this style of parenting.
But I have to admit it’s taught me a lot of things. It’s taught me to get over my parental expectations. It’s taught me to let my children be who they are and not who I think they should be. It’s taught me the kind of lessons that most people don’t get until their children are much older and growing into themselves and out of the constant control of their parents.
It’s also taught me that I am better than I think. I have sat through countless evaluations. I have answered questions. I have updated IFSP’s over and over again. I have filled out tests. I know the answers. I know when the answers have changed and when they haven’t. I know every little piece of progress that’s been made, even if it’s just happened over the course of a week. I have watched people give my children a problem to confront and almost always know how my children will respond. I have learned that despite language I can tell what my children want, I can anticipate trouble, I can foresee frustration.
The first time I really saw this was when Graham went in for his big evaluation that ended up in his PDD-NOS diagnosis. The long process was interrupted by a meltdown over a cabinet door. I’d known it was coming. I’d known that cabinet door would be trouble. And I was able to hold it off several times. Afterwards the examiners told me that it was obvious I understood my son and when they said that I was truly floored. I was so focused on the many ways I did NOT understand him that I didn’t realize how I was uniquely able to see many of his needs. It was perhaps the most powerful insight I’ve had thus far as a parent. I know I know my kids. I know I know them better than anyone else. And since I’ve been able to understand that and embrace it I’ve never worried that it would be questioned.
I’ve never had to worry about anyone but myself when it came to my ability to parent my kids. So I am adjusting.
Right now it remains mostly in limbo. There are papers to file, dates to set and plenty still to come. All of it now is just hypothetical. But it doesn’t stop me from keeping myself in check sometimes. I’m writing less about the kids. I’m posting less pictures.
Still, at least for today, I’m going to try to be a little brave and just allow myself to feel good enough.