Sunday, March 29, 2009

Give Peace a Chance

Do all autism moms get asked if they think of themselves as a Mother Warrior?

I've been asked a few times, and I always find myself first experiencing an unwillingness to enter the fray. I don't really care about all the political drama, I just care about my son, and about the struggle of all families like ours. Why should I have to take sides?

But once I get past my discomfort with the question, with the controversy, the answer bubbles to the surface each time: No, for me, "warrior" does not resonate. This is not a political statement I'm making, this is me putting maybe too much stock in words, but needing to find just the right meaning if I'm going to describe my job as Rooster's mom in a metaphor.

I am not about war. Without sounding like I'm going to break into song or anything, what I've been searching for is peace -- for my child, for our family, for families like ours. I read today someone who said that we are all on a spectrum of autism -- no one is entirely without some of the traits that qualify someone for the diagnosis. That did resonate for me. I don't want to war with the parts of my son that are autistic. I want to help him make peace with himself and the world. That is hard, because my son is a fighter. But I don't want to be that kind of fighter.

Yes, we try biomedical interventions, and medical interventions. We aren't looking for a "cure," I am looking for peace. Our whole family needs more peace, less war; more hugging, less fighting.

I admire warriors, both in the literal sense and in the autism metaphor. I admire people willing to fight for their country, their beliefs, or their values, when fighting is necessary. I'm Jewish -- surely in WWII I would have been a warrior. Perhaps if I couldn't reach my son at all I'd be at war with what kept us apart. He is a willful, challenging little boy, but he is right here, with us, and I connect with him every day with love.

So I'm not at war here at Rooster Calls. But I am out in a field of land mines.

I do like metaphors.

And so I decided that before I could write about why I'm not a warrior, I had to find the metaphor that fits for me. And I have. And I'll tell you what I am... will you return the favor and tell me what you are? (My pal Kia would call this your homework, but I'm a teacher and I find that word kind of a downer, so I'll call it your mission, should you choose to accept it.) I'd love some comments about your metaphors.

As lame as it might sound, I think of myself as Sherpa. Sure, laugh. Autism Sherpa would never sell a book, I know it. But for me the metaphor means that I have to navigate difficult terrain with the responsibility of getting my party safely to a remote destination, and few others are qualified to carry the load against such natural and unnatural barriers along the way. I chart our courses, pack our loads, set a pace, and haul a**. I encourage the team to keep up, and I try to keep us all together. The thing is that real Sherpa have done it many times, guiding their charges up Mount Everest. I have never done this autism expedition before, and I don't have a great sense of direction. But all Sherpa had to start somewhere, right? I'm an Autism Sherpa novice, I guess. Many of you are my Sherpa trainers. Thanks for helping me find my way.

Now, I'm looking forward to those comments...


mama edge said...

I love this post! I too am no autism warrior, and I think Sherpa is a great way to describe what most of us do each day for our kids on the spectrum.

As for what I aspire to be, I prefer the idea of becoming an Autism Whisperer rather than a Warrier. I want to understand and honor my sons' inner motives, needs, and desires, so I can help them to find serenity and reach their natural potential.

redheadmomma said...

I've been called a warrior, but in other instances as a mother, not against autism. I figure that if I were really at war, I'd be doing all that's on that checklist of what I percieve I should be doing: the gf/cf diet, biomeds, etc. I'm not. I'm just trying to get by.

Totally agree with you about looking for some relief, not looking to win. I also agree with you, though, about that the severity of one's kiddo has some weight here. If I was unable to reach my child, or if he was unable to reach me, that's something entirely different.


pixiemama said...

I love this post, too. The warrior thing doesn't resonate with me, either, though I have found myself being far more fierce than I ever thought I was when anyone DARED get between my kids and the services they have needed.

I've never had an official title... one that has carried us through the various phases and challenges. For a few years, I was the "Tantrum Tamer & Official Translator." Then, when I placed Foster in a NT preK program, I was the buffer zone.

Besides tired and feeling old as dirt, I don't know what or who I am now. I suspect reality will let me know sooner than later. Maybe I'm just a mama who loves too much.

One breath at a time.


PBear said...

I agree, I'm not the warrior type either (never comes up in Kansas anyway...) I like Mama Mara's idea of autism whisperer - trying to get past the things that block our kids' senses from being able to make sense of the world. That's why I'm working on my psych degrees, trying to learn as much as I can about how to best get through, and help the kids get through, so there can be two way communication and understanding.