Friday, August 23, 2019

"ASD MOM" and Me

As I was leaving the library the other day, I noticed that a maroon van had parked in the space next to mine. The first thing that caught my eye was the large yellow sticker on the side of it indicating that the van may contain passengers with autism that might be unresponsive to verbal requests/commands.

"Well, that's kind of awesome," I thought to myself.  "What a smart way to keep your children safer."

Then as I walked past the van to get to my own vehicle, I noticed that the license plate said "ASD MOM."  All of a sudden, my stomach started to hurt.

Is that mom completely defined by her child(ren)'s diagnosis?  As a parent of a young child with his own disorder... I really hope not.  And does she have other children?  Is ASD MOM able to take off that "hat" if she needs to and just be there for her other kids?  How do they feel about that license plate?

Or has the diagnosis permeated their lives so much that there isn't even a hat to remove anymore?

My daughter started school today, which means that yesterday was the last day of her summer vacation.  I'd like to say that we spent the day doing fun stuff together, but we didn't.  I spent yesterday being "her brother's mom."

Did she and I get to spend the afternoon at the pool soaking up the last bits of summer?  Nope.  I spent the afternoon in a therapy waiting room listening to her brother scream at his Speech Pathologist through the closed door.

After therapy, did I get to take my daughter out to enjoy her favorite dinner? Did we talk about what she was excited about in the upcoming school year?  Another no.  I spent our normal dinner time at a meeting with my son's new teachers for the preschool program he'll be starting next month.

Yesterday felt like a day I should have spent soaking up my daughter, but I didn't. Was I being a good mom?  Yes.  Absolutely.  I just wasn't being HER mom.

Did I know that having a second child meant that my attention was going to be divided?  Of course I did.  When I began to realize that my second child wasn't developing on a typical path, I knew almost immediately that my attention was never going to be divided EVENLY.  What I didn't realize was how often I felt like I was going to be removing my preferred "mom hat" to put on a different one.

Does the fact that I don't want to wear the "IEP hat" all the time make me a shitty parent?  Does the idea that I wanted to spend yesterday with my daughter (instead of doing tasks directly related to my other child's delays) make me a monster? I don't know.

I'm not native to the "loss of self" that comes with motherhood.  I'm aware that my identity has been completely, irrevocably changed.  And even 20 years from now, when (fingers crossed) neither of my kids are living at home... I know I won't be the same person I was before I had children.

Maybe ASD MOM is just proud of her child and wanted a public way to express it. Maybe ASD MOM has gotten to a place on her journey where she waves the diagnosis in her life around like a badge of honor. Maybe I'll get there someday.

But maybe it's also acceptable to know that I will never put my child's diagnosis on my license plate.

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