Woman murders her two autistic children
I heard a 9-1-1 tape of a woman who had murdered her two children. On the tape, the 9-1-1 operator asks her why she did it. She explains that the boy and girl, ages 5 and 2 were both autistic and that she didn’t want that for herself or them. “[She] wanted normal children.” While I would never be able to take any life let alone that of my own child, I can understand the strain and the dark places for a person raising a child on the spectrum.
My own dark moments
Daniel comes home today. I had a nightmare last night. A teacher and administrator were meeting with me. They were talking about Daniel and his difficulties. The tone was condescending. Nothing they said was overtly wrong or mean but just this feeling of calm distain as they detachedly discussed his shortcomings and struggles. They spoke to me about possible things I could do. Hire a private tutor, send him to another therapist. They spoke about how he didn’t work well in the classroom setting. I was so frustrated by the calm detachment that they displayed as they clinically gave suggestions of ways that I could do more. The suggestions felt like passive-aggressive judgments on me.
I wanted to scream in my dream. “Doesn’t anyone see that I am already doing so much?” I wanted to make the situation as emotional for them as it is every day for me. In my dream, the teacher was a woman who had completely unrelated problem at home. I wanted to bring up this very personal and embarrassing issue out of pure spite. I felt so alone, so exhausted and frustrated.
I woke up with a start and just sobbed.
It is a marathon not a sprint
Raising a child on the spectrum is an endurance endeavor. There are some very dark moments along the way. My son has been with his father for two weeks and I have had a break. Parenting, activities, just life have been smoother and simpler. The thought of his return today has been exhausting. I wish I could say exciting and exhausting but right now, it just feels exhausting.
The person I am trying to help, my son, is often the one fighting me. Even though I know he is fighting to find his way out, I take a lot of the punches and kicks.
Then there is the fear. What if there is something I could be doing different that would be key for my child? What if he never is able to make his life work for himself? What if as an adult, I have to watch him always hurting, always struggling?
What did I do wrong?
The depressing temptation to compare myself becomes overwhelming. I know parents who don’t seem to work half as hard and their children are fine. I know parents who are wacked out losers and have children on the honor roll. The outside world gives them awards at the ceremonies that I sit through. Their children excel at a sport. Particularly in regards to high-functioning, spectrum children, I hear the comments ignorant people make about it being a discipline issue. I hear my own father’s voice in my head saying that dyslexia is just an excuse for laziness.
I trudge along just trying to make it so my child can relate without invading another’s personal space, have a frustrated outburst. Books I saw being given to a first grader as a birthday present at a recent party are the same ones my dyslexic child insists are too hard for him.
The absent parent
My child’s father is good at sending money but has never wanted to be a part of this fight. He hasn’t lived nearby in over 6 years. The last two Christmases in a row he chose to head to another part of the country to marry a woman (the first one didn’t work out so he was marrying another one the following Christmas) instead of coming to see his child. He has chosen a career that gives him public accolades but keeps him away from the child with the struggles. The last two weeks are the longest he has had his son in 4+ years. He hasn’t had his son read a single book during this trip. It has been vacation mode the whole time. He excuses himself from the fight.
The self pity becomes overwhelming. The very thought of trying again impossible. I don’t want to start running my marathon again.
How do I get back up?
Even in my dark moments, I know I am blessed. There is never a question of whether I will stay the course. My husband is with me every step of the way. He cares. He helps. He interacts with my son and is patient with him. I intellectually know that this is not a competition and comparing myself to others is a stupid pastime. I can not possibly know for sure what other parents are doing. I know the work I do. The work we do. I know that my son loves me and feels safe with me. He has told me he chooses to live with me because he knows that he can be himself with me. My son has magical qualities. He is bright and imaginative. He struggles to process information in a way that will allow him to quickly retrieve it but he doesn’t miss a thing. He is brave and stoic and surprisingly self-aware for his age.
So, Daniel’s flight arrives at 2:45 and I will pick him up and we will push forward. Mainly, because he is my son and I love him.
As I climbed back into bed last night, I told my husband, “I don’t think I am cut out for this.”
“Probably not,” he sleepily agreed, “but that doesn’t mean you don’t do a really good job at it.” I love this man.
I wanted to relay the darkness of my dark place. This is not necessarily a reflection of how it is for me every moment or even every day. However in these kinds of circumstances there are moments of despair. It is ok to have those moments. It is valid to have those feelings. What matters is what you do with them. My message to other parents would be: Finding balance on this journey is vital so don’t be ashamed that you struggle, but don’t give into the darkness either.