I was watching Dr. Phil last week and he had an episode entitled "Mothers Who Hate Their Daughters". The show began with a series of clips about mothers who killed their children and as the headlines and soundbytes flashed, I noticed that autism was featured in two of the six stories.
There were two mothers featured in the episode. The second one did not attract my interest but the first was a mother with a fourteen-year old autistic daughter. She admitted to screaming at her daughter "What is wrong with you?", "I hate you" and threatening to leave (as her own mother did when she was six). The mom admitted to fantasizing about running away because it was just too hard and not what she signed up for.
Let me be clear. That is absolutely unacceptable behaviour. However, I can summon a certain sympathy for the motivation. It is frustrating to raise an autistic child. It is embarrassing to be the subject of bad-parent glares when you're out in public. None of us signed up to raise a special needs child. Pretending otherwise is insulting to us and potentially damaging to our children. If we have to constantly pretend to be thrilled with our situation (Autism is the best thing that could ever have happened to our family! It's made us so much more aware of what's important in life!), that is a drain on already strained resources. And it makes us isolated, increasing the risk of a catastrophic snap.
It's not popular in our black-and-white media portrayals but both sides of the coin are true. Having significant challenges helps you to figure out what's important and can let you discard a lot of the dross. But at the same time, having to go through those challenges sucks. I think we owe it to ourselves and our children to acknowledge both sides so that we're not trying to suppress hidden and festering grudges.
Someone commented to me last week about the bravery of a mom in expressing her concerns about her autistic child: will he ever be able to live independently? Will he be bullied? Those are very real concerns but not great secrets.
I think a lot of parents would recognize this fear but society is not gentle with those who express it. Am I going to be able to handle raising this child or am I going to become one of those headlines?
There's a lot of talk thrown around out there about how God or the Universe (pick your organizing divine principle) doesn't give people more than they can handle. It's not so. Otherwise we wouldn't have suicides, depressives or parents who snap.
Be aware of what's going on emotionally and if you're afraid, then screw society's expectations and ask for help. Scream and shout until someone hears you. I've done it. I've seen a therapist at several points when I felt overwhelmed. It really does help to have someone to talk to. Someone who can reassure you that what you're going through is a normal reaction to a bad situation.
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