Courtesy of Bettelheim, it could be said that we mothers of autistic children are the original sh*tty moms -- the discredited refrigerator mother/bad parenting theory of autism causation and all that.
The topic's been on my mind after reading about the Guardian having a Q & A at 1pm today, 21 Friday on 'have you ever felt like a sh*tty mom.' While often told that we're 'amazing,' that we 'do what others couldn't imagine doing,' are the 'best parents ever,' it is true that we mothers of kids on the spectrum haven't needed Bettelheim to have moments in which we feel like, yo, sh*tty mom moment.
For instance, what happened a few hours after Charlie had stalwartly waited (and on the afternoon of the last day of school no less) for over an hour in the front yard for Jim to return from an appointment. 'Waiting for Dad on Wednesday' had been the cause of much (di)stress over the past year and Charlie maintained composure even when he got very anxious in the last ten minutes. Then he went on a super bike ride, had dinner and enjoyed the swings, came home and got the face frozen look and, dusk falling, wanted another bike ride, and then he was running in flight or fight mode across the street till he stopped with a literal bang. Bangs.
It is one way to talk to your neighbors, while being highly aware that the neighbor across the street has two 'Congratulations graduate!' signs in their front yard.
After sixteen years, I'm quite past the stage of competitiive parenting, or competitive mothers of autistic children parenting (are you 'doing the most for your child' because you do the most therapies? arrange the most hours of ABA? 'fight' the most with the school district?). I don't mind being or looking like a sh*tty mom, smile when I'm told "Charlie is so lucky we're his parents,' am glad to acknowledge mistakes (yes, we should not have said yes to that after-dinner bike ride), make myself another cup of coffee (depending on the time of day), and get back to work.
We do try to (invoking Aeschylus' παθη μαθον [pathe mathon]) learn from what we have endured. Instead of acceding immediately to Charlie's requests, we have been counseling the 'let's wait a bit' rule.
Thursday was very pleasant, with a Jersey horse country and a local bike ride and a fair amount of sitting in the house, during which I finally realized I could find the Barney album Charlie has been asking for repeatedly, and that we only have one song of on his iPad (it's that old), on YouTube. Friday morning, on noting that he was breathing heavily while wanting a bike ride 3 minutes after getting out of bed, we turned on the timer.
Charlie was smiling by the last 10 minutes. I nodded to the neighbor across the street as I got out the bikes.