When I was 17, Erma Bombeck wrote a column titled The Special Mother. Even though I did not have children at the time, I was intrigued enough by it that I cut it from our newspaper and kept it through the years never once considering that I might become more intimate with it than the casual observer.
I’ve thought about that article off and on since having kids on the spectrum. I remember clearly one day when I was so wrought with despair, I looked upwards to the sky.
“You’ve picked the wrong person,” I announced to God, beginning one of my many monologues I’ve had with him throughout the years. “I’m not in any way able to do them justice. I’m not THAT person–you know, I’m emotionally inept. I fall apart. I yell at people who haven’t lived up to my expectations. I’m not a politician–I can’t negotiate deals and get them what they need. What could you possibly have been thinking? I thought you didn’t make mistakes.”
See, I’ve failed at a lot of things in life. I wasn’t emotionally prepared to fail my kids. Looking back, I realized what I did was run from what I thought was a monster, with my hands over my ears refusing to listen to anyone say they would never be normal, or see any evidence that might suggest they would be less then perfect.
It was at the dinner table one night when my husband brought up that ugly word, prognosis. I turned on him like a cornered dog, spouting statistics and Lovaas’ research with my teeth bared.
“With therapy, approximately 47% go on to be indistinguishable from their normally developing peers,” I say, glaring at him.
“Yes, but Dr. Stevens says–” he began.
I interrupt, talking even louder, “AND according to his research, no one can predict who will be in the 47%. Someone mildly affected could make no progress at all, while someone severly affected could end up in the 47% group.”
He opens his mouth to speak, but again I cut him off. “So, from now on, we will not discuss prognosis in this house. No one is going to tell me what my child’s abilities are before we’ve even tried anything. We’ll know what they can accomplish when they are 30.” I give him an angry glare. I can see the sadness in his face. Sadness that comes from seeing someone who you think can’t cope with the facts and is in denial. I’m ashamed that I could not contemplate the worst case scenario. Even today it makes me choke when I try to talk about it, because I have failed at the most important aspect of parenting–acceptance under any circumstances.
Fast forward from those early days to about six months ago. We had been struggling with the boys on a couple of issues that I didn’t think were going to change, and I realized that I had thought that up until this moment I had outsmarted and outrun the monster. But being at my wits end over these last couple of issues, I began to despair and agonize when suddenly it happened. I know this sounds hokey, I know some people will be naysayers. But I know that what I heard was the voice of God. I felt His touch like I had not since this journey began 14 years ago, and it calmed me.
And His voice whispered to me, “It’s O.K. THEY are O.K.–perfect the way they are. It’s time to stop running. It’s time to let it go, and let ME!”
I suddenly realized that it wasn’t a monster chasing me at all, and never was. It was simply God, with his plan that I was too scared to look at, because I was afraid his version wouldn’t jive with mine. And maybe it won’t. Who knows for sure? I might still be in Holland instead of Italy, but the tulips are beautiful, and I now see clearly three boys who seem perfectly wonderful to me.