Thursday, November 29, 2012

The answer is yes.

A while ago, my friend’s husband asked her, “Does Chelsea have problems with her kids or something, that she needs to go away so much?”

I think I’m still reeling from the comment, because for weeks I’ve been seeking rationalization, and self-justification, building a defense against what was probably just an off hand comment he hasn’t even thought of since. He's a nice guy, she's seen me through the last 10 years of my life...nothing was meant to offend, but it struck a chord that's vibrated slightly ever since.

So after all the turmoil of trying to honestly acknowledge my motherly motivations, relentlessly examining my deepest desires, and cross examine my weaknesses, analyzing whether I have indeed let my priorities get messed up,  the way his comment implied—the question remained:
Do I have problems with my kids?

The answer…at 4:02 this morning, as I wandered through the house turning off all the lights Aaron had switched on before I locked him in his room because it’s the third night this week and tonight I just can’t do it…. is yes. 
I do. I have problems.

And maybe those problems seemed a bit large this morning because it’s that lovely time of year when Family Support for Children with Disabilities (AKA the keepers of the government funds) requires parents to submit all these lovely reports detailing just how crappy their lives are---even though that’s exactly what we spend every day trying not to do, because we know if we spent even a moment dwelling on the negative it will sink us. 

But we have to justify the funds and so yesterday I got to sit for an hour and a half and delve into the darkness that I keep tucked away somewhere near my gut, 
a safe distance from my heart.

Two of my champions sat with me. Adele and Deanna. My go to's. The one's I text when Aaron says a good guttural "G" , or uses "No" unprompted. I try and share every little triumph with them because they deserve to know them all because they love and work so very hard for my child, right along with me.  My “in the trenches people”, who write the reports back to those perhaps once knew war, but have long since forgotten amidst their mere paperwork battles.

So with my Adele, my heaven sent speech path dutifully translating my "mommy suffering babblings" into professional lingo all neat and tidy and typed,  I let the ugliness ooze out, 
a mix of pain and relief, like finally popping a ripe zit.

“I don’t sleep.”

Parent requires support in logging and interpreting sleep data of child, and developing strategies to increase duration of nighttime slumber, possibly through medication.

The reality? He’s not gonna sleep. Probably ever.  Acceptance is sometimes a better path than programming.

“Oh, speaking of crap.I regularly scrub poo out of my carpet. “
Should be doing it right now in fact.

Parent requires assistance in helping child learn toileting routines, including wiping so that he will cease using socially unacceptable forms of relieving rectal debris. 

Show parental need. It’s the latest trend in the hoops we’re required to leap.

Now I feel guilty. I’m grateful I have help, I’m grateful there’s so much  assistance.
I met a mom once who raised her autistic blind son in Jamaica, where a doctor diagnosed him and that was it.

“I cried every day” she told me in her thick accent, “and when I move here and get help…I remembered what it was to have happiness.”

I get it.  I’m blessed.

But at 4 am, sometimes in my exhaustion,  the blessings I cling to in the daylight, seem to elude my sleepy grasp.

And I find myself angry, thinking about that silly comment, the one I’ve tried so hard to ignore, because I know it wasn't intended to hurt me.

But do I have problems with my kids? (the question hangs at the back of my mind under the Christmas shopping list)
The answer is yes.
You bet ya!
As this blog proclaims, this is the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm not a mother who's maternal instincts throbbed in her since girlhood, that settled into your domestic role content and utterly fulfilled ..I wish I was. Because I do know this challenge is exactly what I'm meant to do. 
Do I have problems, hard days and nights where I feel like an utter failure? Yuppers!
Do I not love them? No.
Do I not want everything in the world for them? Of course.
Could I use a break? Pretty sure most moms could.

My one friend talks a lot about exit strategies, that if we know how long something will last it’s easy to give ourselves to it, ie dad’ll be home at 6, we can do it. We just have to survive until 6!

She’s the one, that when I was lamenting (long before the comment) that I felt guilty that Ben and I did go away pretty regularly, said, “Of course you do! Other parents can look forward to that once the kids are gone, and you’re just doing it along the way, because that magical day of having no dependents might never come.”

Oh how I’ve clung to that.

So why then, has this other comment stuck with me? So much so, that tonight when Aaron came to tug at my hair for an hour, I felt this rebuttal well up inside my mind, until I had to start typing because sleep (however needed) was out of the picture.

Anger is a secondary emotion. I’m not angry I’m….hurt.
Hurt because my number one fear (probably one that subconsciously drives this very blog) is that people will think I’m a bad parent.

And when he said that, it felt like my fear was confirmed.

My naked child jumping on the trampoline when there’s snow on the ground
Bad mother.

The fact that I want to have my friend over but her sons peanut allergy terrifies me, because regularly in the middle of the night Aaron makes our house look like their was a massacre of peanut butter people, and though I wipe away the smeared peanutu hand prints, I’m scared the very air is contaminated.
Bad mother.

Child lunch consists of raw hotdogs and rice cakes.
Bad mother.

Child doesn’t sleep at night.


And somedays I am a bad mother.
Maybe even tomorrow, cuz maybe I should have tried to go back to sleep instead of writing this.

So ya, we go on vacation.

But I think we all do. Whether it’s a bubble bath, or a half an hour stowed away with a book during naptime, or a girls night, or 30 seconds sitting on a toilet lid, with your foot against the door to keep the 3 foot bundles of whiny needs at bay for even just a moment. Some women craft, or bake, or exercise and it’s enough to detach them enough to go back in full force. And sometimes apparently I need a whole plane ride to achieve that.

I completely believe Sister Beck's counsel that
“A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence.”
I also love the interviews she does on the topics of "Finding Balance"  and "Leisure Time".

The irony is I spend so much of our actual vacation time talking Bens ear off, asking his input on this situation with the kids, or this goal direction with Aaron. I write about the kids, and think about the kids and I step back and remember how much I truly love being a mom.

I know all the sandy beaches in the world could not give me the kind of satisfaction this impossible demanding job of mothering does. 
But sometimes they offer just the right opportunity to remember that!

And I know if we couldn’t go “away”, I would find another way to re-focus and re-group. 
But we can and we do. (I'm sure the fact that  Ben has a hard time containing his demanding job factors into that as well.)

So away we go. And I take my guilt with me, packed beside my flip flops and my  copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's “Gift From the Sea” 

I take it every time--that beautiful, short little book of wisdom, written by a women who went on  “vacation”.

She just puts it so well.
“Even purposeful giving must have some source that refills it. The milk in the breast must be replenished by food taken into the body. If it is women’s function to give, she must be replenished too. But how? 
Solitude, says the moon shell. Every person, especially woman should be alone some time during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and how impossible of attainment. To many women such a program seems quite out of reach they have no extra income to spend on a vacation for themselves; no time left over from the weekly drudgery of housework for a day off; no energy after the daily cooking, cleaning and washing for even an hour of creative solitude. Is this then only an economic problem? I do not think so. Every paid worker, no matter where in the economic scale, expects a day off a week  and a vacation a year. By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class. They rarely even complain of their lack, apparently not considering occasional time to themselves as a justifiable need. Herein lies one key to the problem. If women were convinced that a day off work or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. Ass it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they rarely make the attempt…. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets aside time for business appointments, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it—like a secret vice!” 
I wonder is Mrs Lindbergh had people questioned her “getting away.”

She is so right though! How many dentist appointments have I looked forward to, just because I could sit in quiet? Even our vacations, serve double duty---they’re for Ben's work, or with friends, or even with each other. How sometimes I long to not just hang up my “mother” hat but my “wife” one as well. Ben's traveling log ago converted me to the old adage that absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

Like unnoticed negative space that makes a painting, or the unheard silence in a symphony, it is the principle of opposition in all things--
that my being without my family (even at 4 am) makes me appreciate being with them again.

Ironically, Aaron is so good at it.
He knows he needs time alone.
So he takes it, usually around 4 am.

And indirectly, I get it too. He gives me an excuse.
“Up with Aaron”, really means justifiable solitude.

And Aaron comes back from his solitude, ready to snuggle. 
For, despite all his supposed social lack, sometimes I think he has some things figured out and simplified better than the rest of us.  
Love fiercely those who matter—including yourself.

Speaking of trips and Aaron.... 

We booked a trip to Disneyland!!!
Me, Ben and Aaron.

And every time I think about it, I cry.
Because as hard as all these quarterly goal meetings, yearly assessment of needs reports, IPP's and special needs financial  planning information sessions are on me…it’s his life.
All these goals I think its so much work to manage …he actually has to do!

So when I think about him seeing a life-size Buzz Lightyear or walking into Cars land for the first time,  squealing with delight (because I know he will) tears of joy inevitably well.

And even though it’s a very public place and Aaron might do lots of thing that might get us a few  “look at those bad parent” looks,

his smiles will be enough to combat it all.

We use to do this exercise in yoga, where we would visualize a place of peace and happiness. It was suppose to relax us.

And guess what? I never once conjured up a sandy beach or a single palm trees.

All I ever saw was Aaron smiling. 
Not the pure, innocent smile of bliss, I anticipate seeing in Disneyland.

But a knowing, thankful smile.

As I sat their in sukhasana, with tears streaming down my face (I did a lot of crying in yoga) having visions of my son, I didn’t necessarily picture the Savior but I always felt like He was there, watching me watch Aaron.

And I feel like He had a knowing, thankful smile too.

So ya, I have problems, we all do. 
We never really “get away” from them.  
There’s no airline that flies that far.

But whatever we can do to connect to our Savoir, that is what will really makes the difference. He is the real provider of peace and reassurance. It is only He who truly justifies any of us, because He is the only one that truly understands our whole story, who knows us well enough to judge us, with complete understanding and thereby perfect compassion. He who will purify us, and eventually take away all the pains and hurts that tend to apparently resurface at 4 in the morning.

Will it all be okay?
Because of Him, 
the answer is yes.


Alana said...Best Blogger Tips

Chelsea, you have no idea how much I want to say. You can laugh at the fact that raw hot dogs and rice cakes sounds like a perfectly acceptable lunch to me. I know it's hard not to feel judged, especially if your not a helicopter mom. We've all been through those looks, mine from other moms upon learning I let my kindergartener walk inton the school by himself. Just think at least your kid keeps his nudity to the back yard, once Landon ran out of a pool change room on his birthday in his birthday suit.

Don't worry about justifying your trips - if they make you a better mother because you feel energized and refreshed in some way when yo come back they are worth it.

I could never begin to understand the difficulty of dealing with a son with autism but from my outside looking in view, I think your doing a great job.

Jill said...Best Blogger Tips

I started to read your post (I linked to it from my friend Dawna's) and didn't finish it all because I don't have time right now, but I had to post so you don't continue to feel bad.
I think everyone feels like this sometimes. Kids are hard, and some are harder than others, and we all have different patience levels and personalities that make dealing with our kids harder or easier. We haven't slept through the night for 2.5 years except once b/c my child is a horrible sleeper. My 6 year old still throws temper tantrums and I had to send home her friends from a tea party b/c of it and all the nieghbor parents knew about it. I get mad at my kids more than I want. I fed them cereal the other day for supper b/c I was sick of my 4 year old making barfing sounds over dinner like he does every meal time. We hate meal time b/c it is chaos. And we never want to complain to our parents because we don't want them to worry about us/think we are super negative, but sometimes you have to vent. And I know talking to every other parent, they all go through hard times with their kids. I admire people who have autistic children, or ones with other disabilities, because you have to put forth an extra effort and many can't understand how you feel. I just always tell myself the day wasn't perfect, but you always can feel better in the morning and try again. And I love your blog that you don't try to act like your life is perfect-it helps other Moms when we are honest. Good luck!

Liesel said...Best Blogger Tips

Not sure what to say. I'm still reading. Enjoy Mickey.

Alison said...Best Blogger Tips

I love that book too! It explains better than I could my love of and need for solitude and silence. I visualize lots of different places in yoga, but they are always quiet, and I am always there ALONE. Thanks for sharing your ramblings, they strike a chord in my soul where I feel truth.

Lindsey said...Best Blogger Tips

Just wanted to say I get it! I could comment on every single paragraph of this post but I won't bore you with that. You are not the only one who feels like a bad mother sometimes. I'm glad you get the chance to get away and just be "you"! That is so great you are going to Disney! Aaron will love it!

Oh and I can totally hear Adele's voice in all that professional jargon. Haha. It's great to have good people on your side!

cc said...Best Blogger Tips

I love this:) and you! You are such a good of my faves <3

Marie said...Best Blogger Tips

You are not a bad mother.

A FAITHFUL mother.
A HOPEFUL mother.
A PATIENT mother.
A LOVING mother.
A STRIVING mother.
A REAL mother.

Chelsea Belle said...Best Blogger Tips

Thanks everyone.
For reading my ramblings.
For taking the time to comment.
For not agreeing with my tired accusing brain, that calls me a "bad mom" from time to time.
For "getting it".
And for being imperfect, but still wonderful moms yourselves:)

Crystal HW said...Best Blogger Tips

I think we all have times where our own faults nag at us and we feel like bad moms. I also think you put it all so eloquently that yes, we have faults but it will all be okay because of the Savior. Love ya Chelsea!

TheMarets said...Best Blogger Tips

You are amazing Chelsea. And I've said it time and time again... I think your an amazing mother and your boys are dang lucky to have you!

Amy said...Best Blogger Tips

Oh man! If I could vacation as often as you I would, guilt free! I think we all would, even your friend's hubby. ;) Instead, I do the girls' nights about once a month. We all need a break to recoup.
I loved this quote from your friend the most: "Other parents can look forward to that once the kids are gone, and you’re just doing it along the way, because that magical day of having no dependents might never come.”
No guilt Chelsea. You are amazing, definitely not a bad mom. You are an example to many.
You should frame Marie's comment haha!
I can't wait to see pics and hear about your trip with Aaron to Disneyland. It really is a magical place, and it's so great seeing it through your child's eyes.