I presented my “Informing the Village” workshop in Barrie today. Near the end, an attendee said to me that they wanted to be like me. That they wanted to get to the stage of positivity and acceptance that I have in regards to my Autistic sons. I was honored, and flattered when they said this. But I think the level of positivity I have in regards to them is a direct extension of my own personal perspective on life in general and parenting in specific. I assumed from the get go that parenting would be hard. I watched the most amazing mother on this planet devote her life towards the betterment of her children. I watched as she did whatever was needed to ensure we got what we needed to be happy, it made me view parenting in a very specific way:
Being a good mother is the single hardest task any woman can ever undertake in her life. It means forever putting someone else’s wellbeing and happiness above your own, even when your exhausted, or sick, heartbroken, or stressed beyond measure by any number of things that have nothing to do with your kids, even then you have to put them ahead of you. There will be times that your heart feels like it’s breaking, at the pain they can cause you, at the helplessness of watching them hurt when there is nothing you can do but sit quietly beside them offering your unconditional love and presence as they struggle through their own trials. There will be moments of extreme frustration with yourself when you wish you could do more, for them, or with them, to help them, to guide them. You have to let go of the notion that your child is a direct extension of yourself, because they are not. They were a part of you and they always will be, but having a child isn’t the same as creating a puppet. You don’t get to decide what they will look like, or who they will intrinsically be. You can teach them morals and values, perspectives and ideas, but eventually they will choose their own paths in this world. It’s up to you to guide them to be the best person they can be, and to give them whatever specific tools they personally need to thrive in this world. But the tools one child might need, are different from another, and they will be different from what you needed as a child as well. Let go of the media’s fake cookie cutter ideals of how a child should be, and embrace the child you have. Realize that they have worth exactly as they are, there is no need for you to try and force them to be anyone that they are not, because they really are fantastic exactly as they are! Maybe they won’t be the “jock” one of you hoped they would be, maybe they won’t be a “bookworm” like yourself. Perhaps they will hate playing the piano, or need a tutor for English.
But what if perhaps it’s more than that? What if they are classified as Special Needs. That’s okay, there’s nothing to mourn, you didn’t lose them. You lost the lie that our current status quo was all that was good and right and normal. Instead you’ve been given the opportunity to see just how fake of a statement that is as you watch in awe and wonder how incredible your child truly is. That is, IF you open your heart and mind to the knowledge that different from “normal” doesn’t mean less. Parenting is hard work no matter what, perhaps your child will need different types of support than you originally thought, that’s okay! Your job as their parent isn’t to dictate what they need, but to provide what they need based on their own individuality.
Being a parent is the most incredible journey that can ever be undertaken. There is more joy, more adventure, laughter, and a sense of fulfillment as you watch them grow that nothing can compare to. I am grateful for the blessings I have in my life. I am grateful that I get to help C, N, and G in whatever ways they need to grow into the best possible people they can be. To give them the tools they need (most likely all 3 will need a totally different set) to obtain their version of happiness in this lifetime. I’m here as a guide, as a teacher, as companion along their journeys, as a confidante, a sounding board, a caretaker when they cannot care for themselves, but I am NOT and I NEVER will be here to be their puppet-master. That’s not what I’m here to be, it’s not what any parent is supposed to be.
So choose wisely, choose to have a child only when you know in your heart you can do all of that, never before.”