Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Mother

We were the same height, but she left me feeling as though she was staring down her nose at me. 

“Tsk. Not a thing wrong with that boy. You worked at that hospital so long all you do is look for trouble. You look till you find it. That’s what you do. He’s fine. He’s just a little boy. That’s all.”

My inner mother shriveled up, and second guessing began. Surely my mom knew more than I did. Was she right? Did my background in working with profoundly disturbed children lead me to imagine things that were not there?

I was used to other people looking at me with that, “Nothing wrong with that kid but his mamma,” look. Hearing the same sentiment erupt from my own mother’s mouth was more than I could take.

My blonde-headed stick of dynamite perplexed me as much as he delighted me.

Lazy, Hazy Perfect Parenthood Dreams
I envied moms that nursed in public as if it came second nature. My hyper-alert baby couldn’t stay latched on for whipping around to see what was going on near him. Imagine a hungry-cranky baby who can’t stay latched on? I barely left the house for the eight months I nursed.

They say sleep when the baby sleeps. If you’ve uttered the phrase, you presumed the baby sleeps. What about a mom so frazzled by a wakeful baby she can’t calm down to sleep before her barely napping napper awakens?

My hazy, lazy dreams of motherhood evaporated the first time I cranked the crib mobile. My six-week-old baby did not coo and wiggle in delight.

Memories of his blood curdling scream still raise the hairs on my head twenty-two years later. The vigor of his startle response lifted him completely off the sheets. That wasn’t how it was supposed to be, was it?

Doting Grandparents
By the time mom and I faced off, I had seen my own frustration and puzzlement mirrored in the eyes of church nursery workers, medical office staff, and pre-K teachers.

Most often it seemed to be quiet frustration with me. “If she’d just calm down, he’d be fine.” The eyes said it all.

I enrolled him in a gymnastics class thinking he’d burn off energy. I bounced into the gym invigorated from my little bit of breathing space. 

I came to an abrupt halt.There it was. The frazzled, harried coach (whose eyes were gunning for me) was coming my way. “How can a three-year-old kid fail gymnastics?” I wondered.

Treasures of Times Gone By
“Have you had him screened for ADHD?” she prefaced her let-the-mom-down-easy speech as she began to tell me he might not be "right for the program". 

My clinician’s investigatory mode kicked in even as the mourning began. I stood mourning the realization that my beautiful, inquisitive, bouncy preschooler was not really welcome in the class anymore. I mourned the loss of that hour of freedom a week.

I stood back and watched knowing it was my last chance to observe and figure out what was happening. The class lined up to jump into a pit off foam much like the ball pit at fast food play grounds.

While the other kids ran up and flew into the air with abandon, my little fella crept up to the edge. He stood watching as if the pit were full of poisonous snakes.

Future Photographer in Training
Finally, he sat down and ever so slowly edged into the foam pit. I’m sure it only took a few minutes. At the time, it seemed like hours and hours.

Rather than going over and applauding his bravery, the teacher/coach gave him an impatient prompt to clear the area for the next kid in line.

My little gymnastics failure no longer merited her curiosity or attention. She had decided he was someone else’s problem: the doctor with the medicine that would cure him of his disruptive presence.

Not long after, he jumped into the car after his K-3 class. The teacher locked eyes with me, and I saw it again. The look: “Don’t tell me I’m gonna be saddled with this kid all year . . . .”

From his car seat, his little voice rang in my ears, “Today! I bite somebody!”

World Traveling Photographer
Now, my mother’s words mixed and mingled with all these other words until my head was filled with a terrible dance of noise.

“What kind of horrible mother am I? I was such a good teacher. Why am I such a failure as a mother?” I cried inside.

I had no idea I was dealing with sensory processing issues, apraxia, dysgraphia, and would eventually hear the words “Asperger’s Syndrome”. The years of discovery were long and lonely.

Oh, fraidy cat. I remember the pain, confusion, doubt, despair as if it were yesterday and not nineteen years ago. 

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
Are you there now? Are you wondering if you will always be the shell-shocked shell of a mother you feel you are right now? 

Walk with me a while? Let’s get through this wonderful, terrible, amazing, scary thing called parenthood together?  God is still writing our story, but it seems the time has come to share the early parts with you. See you soon? 

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Part 1 of this series: A Homeschooling Not So Fairy Tale

Part 2 of this series: He's Bright But Confusing - Sound Familiar?


  1. Ohh, yes. Even the health "professionals" at the county testing facility wanted to send me to parenting classes. "Nothing wrong with her"... still not buyin it.

    1. Why they don't trust mother's intuition and first look to us as the root cause will mystify me forever. Keep fighting the good fight. You know what you know is true even if 'they' don't! <3

  2. Wow, I want to read more! I laughed when you quoted your child "Today I bite somebody!" Oh, parenting. Not for the weary :)

  3. Vanessa, all these years later, I laugh too! Even he laughs a bit when we tell 'when you boys were kids' stories.

    At the time, I think I cried for days. I can't remember if we finished the week or if I withdrew him that day.

    I did my statistical analysis on that little class of 18 three-year-olds: 3 spoke only French, 1 spoke only Chinese, more than 1/2 the class were very young 3's and almost half were only children. No wonder the teacher and aide were overwhelmed and no wonder my poor son was beyond the breaking point!

    Of course, since he spoke like a 2nd grader and was above 90% in ht/wt percentiles, they just couldn't let him act like the very young 3 he was. So, that was an even bigger frustration for both of us!

    So glad you dropped by! Hope to see you again soon.

  4. I am not the mom of a child with Asperger's, but I've been through similar things with all three of my children. None of the experts ever want to believe that a mere mom actually knows what they are talking about. I've had ones that argued with me, discounted me, ignored me, and grudgingly admitted that I'd been dead on. It is exhausting.

    1. It is exhausting, and still we soldier on because that's what mom's do! Lately, I've been amazed at the number of professionals who seem willing to listen. Makes me wonder if things are changing!

  5. Carol Anne, I would ask how you know, but I don't have to. You've walked these roads, navigated these waters. When I begin to wonder if I'm just imagining it, if people are going to believe that I am just making it up, all I need to do is find my friends, like you, who have been there before me. I am so thankful that we were able to meet and I know that God set it up as His divine appointment. I know we will have many long years together my dear, sweet, new friend. Thank you for who you are.

    1. You are an amazing and inspiring friend and an amazing mom. I am so thankful the Lord put us in the same community and in the same places at the same time. I look forward to facing the future with you because friends like you make me stronger. <3