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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"A Good Mother Would Never...."

Like many mothers, I have an idealized image of a good mother in my head.  In my particular case, it's the autism brand of good mother.  The autism good mother is endlessly patient.  She completely accepts her child's autism, while at the same time doing everything in her power to help her child live in the world.  She constantly seeks out therapies which would help her child, yet at the same time makes sure her child realizes they are perfect just the way they are.  She is careful with diet, with tone of voice, with IEPs, with toys, with TV watching...with everything.  And the one thing she never, ever does, of course, is yell at her child.
We all know the good mother is a myth, but I think many of us still strive to be that myth.  Part of it is what we read.  Those writing about parenthood, without maybe doing so consciously, paint themselves in the best light possible.  We might jokingly admit to small transgressions "I put on a video just hoping she would leave me alone for a while!  I gave her soda for breakfast!  I dressed her in yesterday's clothes again!"  But we don't talk about the moments that are not funny, not silly.

The other night, I yelled at Janey.  I really, really yelled at her, loudly and angrily.  I feel awful about it.  I'm not a yeller.  I don't lose my temper often.  I can only think of a few times in my life I truly lost my temper.  That's not a result of some wonderful self-control---it's just not in my nature to get very angry very often.  I get depressed instead, or silent, or secretly seethe internally.  But this time, I really yelled.

The setup was this:  Janey had come back from a ride with Tony.  I took her to the bathroom, as we do after a ride.  She didn't use the toilet.  I asked her a couple times if she was sure she didn't need to go, and she repeated "sure she didn't need to go!"  Then she wanted to cuddle on the bed.  As soon as we got on the bed, she looked at me, smiled, and proceeded to wet the bed all over.

For more background, this was the 5th or 6th time in a row that exact scenario had played out.  I'd take her to the bathroom, she wouldn't go, and then she'd go straight to the bed and wet it.  I had spent the last many days washing blanket and sheets.  She won't leave waterproof covers on---in her eyes, under the covers usually means straight on the mattress.  We got a new mattress, badly needed, a few months ago.  We can't buy a new mattress every month.  

So, without stopping to think, without taking into consideration all the things I want to have taken into consideration with Janey---that she might not understand what I have said, that there might be sensory reason for her actions, that she truly might not realize she had to go until she's on the bed, that she prefers to use the bathroom totally on her own and not be taken by me, that the reason for her actions might be something I don't understand at all but that in her head is totally reasonable---I yelled.   I said "You stop that!  You go in the bathroom right now and use the toilet!  YOU CAN'T KEEP PEEING ON THE BED!!!!"

Janey's response?  She laughed.  After a while, she did get the message that I wanted her to go into the bathroom, and she went.  I lay there, angry and wet and just plain tired of it all.  It took a few minutes for the guilt and sadness to set in.  I don't want to be like that.  I don't want to yell at Janey, or have anyone yell at her.  

A part of me does understand that even a saint would sometimes lose their patience with Janey (or with almost any kids, at some point).  I do know that it's likely that every parent on earth has yelled at their kids once or twice.  But still---I wish I hadn't yelled at her.

When I calmed down, I told Janey I was sorry.  I told her that again the next day, and the next.  I washed the blankets and sheet again.  I put down the pads again, and hoped she wouldn't move them.  I told myself that her progress with toilet training has been great lately.  She has worn underwear to school for months, with barely an accident.  She almost never misses with "messy" toilet needs.  She uses the toilet for urine at home much of the time, and she prefers underwear to pullups now, and we even take her in the car in underwear.  The bed issue is something we need to work out (for daytime---I don't imagine she'll be out of pullups at night for a long time, if ever), but overall, she's doing well.  
In some ways, there is good in the Good Mother ideal.  It's something to aim for.  But none of us are going to always be that Good Mother.  However, most of us are smaller case good mothers, indeed.  We love our kids.  We try every day to do the best we can for them.  We aren't perfect.  But especially for those of us with children with special needs, we need to take the Good Mothers we read about with a grain of salt, and to keep just being the good mothers we are, and supporting each other in that sometimes incredibly challenging task.

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