Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Controlling Myself

I remember as a child spending days questioning if, given the choice between two losses, I'd rather lose my hearing or my sight. I tried walking around with my eyes shut, I tried spending a day in silence. I framed it as a question of loss, and survival. I was kind of a brooding kid, sure, but I imagine plenty of people think about these things growing up, wondering: Could I face loss? Is one kind of suffering better or worse than another? Humans by nature compare. That seems somewhat universal to me. What strikes me as the funniest thing about the way I framed the question is the part about, "given the choice." Control freak that I am, right? As if, right?

Yes, wouldn't it be lovely if we could CHOOSE to be given the challenges for which we are best suited! Life should hand us little check-the-box surveys, and then parcel out our offspring appropriately, too...

I grew up with a chip on my shoulder... er, um, I mean, a mantra, that said, "I LIKE hard work. Bring it on. Easy is for wimps." Before we married, I tried to convince my husband to join the Peace Corps with me not for a better reason than that. The one big fight we had while dating was because I jumped to the conclusion that he grew up "on easy street" which I, in my overly sanctimonious ways (forgive me, I HAVE matured some in the decade since then) believed made him "soft." I thought having a dysfunctional family qualified me as some kind of martyr! I had this notion that I paid some "dues" - whatever that means!

It all seems pretty silly now, and I am sure I still have PLENTY more to learn about my own foolishness. My plentiful foolishness.

But one prism through which I've come to better understand how foolish my controlling nature is has to do with the way I have been prone at times to compare special needs parenting.

For as much or as little as you can categorize kids, or special needs kids, I have found myself at times lumping kids with autism into the ill-fitting and unhelpful boxes of "more hyperactive" versus "more withdrawn," and when I have done this I have (foolishly) lamented that I am having a hard time parenting a "more hyperactive" son when my nature perhaps might be better suited to a "more withdrawn" one. If you are currently UNFRIENDING me on FB, just know that I don't blame you, but I really am working on being less controlling, foolish, and, um, stupid. (Just don't call it a New Year's Resolution, because I don't make those...)

To me, there is about as much point in thinking, "I can't handle my hyperactive son," as there is in saying, "You were given this challenge because you are strong." I don't believe either of those two things. As I posted a while back, I've already come to terms with, "You get what you get and you don't get upset," and I certainly have learned that there is no measuring contest for grief and suffering, no prizes awarded. I have also learned that if there were, I wouldn't be anywhere near in the running (not that I mean to tempt fate). Now I'm striving to master the notion, "Life is random and mysterious; live in the now."

The truth, and the confession that I'm baring before you now, is that sometimes when one of my friends laments how hard it is to get their child to play with others, or to take an interest in toys or friends, I feel this tiny reaction that hearkens back to, "I could handle deaf, because I'm not so auditory really anyway when you get done to it, but BLIND? And never READ again? Or SEE my family? NO WAY! Then I'd DIE." Well, I guess more accurately, what (stupid) my knee-jerk reaction says is, "I'll trade you. At least your kid doesn't DIVE INTO a park full of strangers and act SO WEIRD that kids scatter. At least your kid doesn't walk into most groups of other children primed to start a gigantic conflict!"

As if, right?! As if my lot is tragic, or the lot of the child (and mother of the child) whose autism isolates them quietly is not... again, as if there is a quantifiable better or worse to the spectrum of autism's challenges. As if my angst of my son's frequent conflicts would vanish like magic if he retreated into himself more and engaged the world less. (Whoa... Can I unfriend MYSELF? But no, I forgive me for my foolishness because at least I'm trying to learn better.) Of course I recognize that I would not really "trade" my son for anything.

I am telling you that I am not proud of my knee-jerk comparison reaction, and that by broadcasting my own ignorance, I hope that I help improve my own perspective. No, I'm not exactly going to through a celebratory party that my son sometimes hurls himself toward people in awkard and destructive and alienating ways, but I MUST remember, and I WILL remember to be grateful for his friendships, for the empathy he shows sometimes when someone cries, for his passion for life and life experiences. By writing this post, I help myself in the practice of remembering and appreciating. Our journey is to help the Rooster also find centeredness, calm, focus, self-control. Our journey is not so very different from the journey of a family trying to help calm, focused children on the spectrum express their empathy and passion. As the saying goes, "We all have our stuff."

In my quest for getting my head screwed on straight, and in search of that elusive PERSPECTIVE I yammer on about trying to find, I need to post about how I am learning that:
  • no one goes through life unscathed, but that doesn't mean there is no JOY along the way;
  • there are no "points" for suffering;
  • your suffering is not BETTER or WORSE than my suffering;
  • your kid is not BETTER or WORSE than my kid;
  • my kid's challenges are what I need to deal with, and I bring my own baggage to those challenges, with which I also must deal;
  • I have as much or more to learn as my son;
  • trying to control the universe and resent it for not complying, rather than trying to become a more patient, resilient, and accepting human being, makes me a kind of deaf and blind that I CAN choose not to become.


pixiemama said...

It's OK to have those types of thoughts. It's HUMAN. As parents of children with special needs, we want more than anything for things to be DIFFERENT, because we know what we have is hard for everyone. Knowing that different doesn't equal better (or worse)? That's a break through. Why don't you try FRIENDing yourself, instead of trying to break free? Frankly, I find you to be a delightful friend.


Anonymous said...

It reminds me of the beginning of one of those "feel good because we're all in this together as special mothers" things where the author talks about how we don't "rank" our kids' special needs when we come across other mothers. But I too have done just that - thanked God I didn't have a child who wouldn't hug me, or snickered inside when a mom complained that her kid only had 50 words and thought that I could give her my non-verbal (at the time) kid for a few weeks and see how she liked that.

It's the nature of the beast, I suppose. But I think we come out the other side and just know that we have a bond that goes deeper than most simply because of being the parents that we are. Yet there I go again, sounding like one of those "it's all meant to be" people. ;-)