I was a bad mother. That’s what he used to tell me. “You’re a good mom,” he’d say, “but you’re not a good mother. For a long time I believed him. If he was my husband, maybe there was some truth to it. If you’re wondering what the difference between mothers and moms are, I wondered the same thing, too. In his mind there was a distinct difference. My not being a good mother wasn’t a good thing.
I was co-hosting a bridal shower the other day and had no choice but to bring Henry with. It was definitely not the best scenario. His behaviors have increased a lot lately, which makes everything more difficult all around for everyone, including him. This day in particular was no exception, and rather than enjoying the shower like I could have I instead spent the better part of the day watching him to make sure he wasn’t doing something he wasn’t supposed to be. I was exhausted. He knocked stuff off tables and threw stuff across the room. I wasn’t doing that great of a job with him. That’s how it felt.
Then someone looked at me and said, “You do really well with him.” Huh.
This got me thinking back to when I used to hear how I was a bad mother, and how I no longer believe that. I still make a lot of parenting mistakes; I’m not perfect. But for as many perceived failures I’ve had as a parent, I’ve had a million more successes. My kids apologize when they’ve made a mistake, and forgive when they’ve been wronged. They’ve learned the merit of forgiveness. They tell me things I might not want to hear. They admit when they’ve made a mistake. They’ve learned the merit of honesty. They hug me when I’ve had a bad day. They hug me goodnight. They constantly tell me, “I love you, Mom.” They’ve learned the merit of love. They are well liked by others. They have learned the merit of friendship. They say please and thank you without being prompted. They’ve learned the merit of manners. All of my kids are happy, healthy, and considering no one has turned to drugs or been delinquent or gotten in trouble with the law, they are pretty well-behaved. They don’t mouth off to me in public, and very rarely at home. If they do, they always apologize. My kids are great kids. I am proud of all of them.
I think about the nights I held my sick crying baby all night, the times I sat in the audience and watched them look out to make sure I was there, the times when they smiled when they got off the bus and saw me waiting for them. I think about the times when they were experiencing either so much emotional or physical pain and I cried for them and with them. I think about the good times, when we danced the macarena in the living room and sang kid songs in the van on the way to therapy, or just acted plain silly on a rainy day. I think about all the times when I was there for my kids, in exactly the way they needed me to be. If that constitutes being a bad mother, I am seriously in trouble.
I think about the not so good times; when I sat alone in a big conference room of professionals, crying as I received three separate diagnoses of autism. When my children were bullied or excluded. When they experienced heartache or rejection. I think about the pain I felt when I left my children behind for the first time ever. I think about the times that they wanted nothing to do with me and I experienced the pain of my children’s rejection. I think about my fears about the future, and what will happen to all of my kids when I am gone. I think about my children and how autism will greatly impact my sons’ futures as adults. I think about the nights I’ve spent crying for my children.
Sometimes that crying is out of frustration. Sometimes its out of anger. Sometimes it is out of pure sadness for the pain I know they are feeling. Sometimes, though, I cry because I know they are happy.
On more than one occasion I have been complimented on either how I was handling my child or simply just on how great of children I have raised. I used to think that those people didn’t know what they are talking about it. And if they were great children it surely wasn’t because of me. But now, I simply say “Thank you,” because I know I am doing a lot of things right, even if I don’t always think so. Or even if someone else doesn’t think so.
A person’s words only have as much weight as we allow them to have, and when you let those words fly over your shoulder like feathers blowing in the wind, they cease to have any value. I tell my kids this constantly. I remind myself of this constantly.
My wish for my children is that they grow up to be responsible, mature adults who reach their potential in whatever capacity they can. My wish for them is that in the end, they are happy. If that happens, I will be content.When I look at each of my children and see them smiling and laughing, I don’t ever think it’s because I’m a bad mother.
Rather, I think I’ve done pretty darn good job so far.