You are a good mom.
Those words changed my perspective of myself not too long ago.
We were at our local dance studio, and I was helping Annie put on her dance shoes, while checking constantly to make sure Austin wasn't overflowing the water cooler tray behind my back. Ellie was hovering nearby, and as I sent Annie into class, I checked the clock to see how much longer I had to wait before daddy arrived to take Austin home with him. I plopped my frazzled body into a metal folding chair. Ellie buzzed around me, talking incessantly, nervously. I could tell she was wound up, overly stimulated from a long day at school, but I was too tired to think about what that really meant. A little later I suggested she try and put on her dance shoes, as her class would be starting soon. She started fussing, whining, complaining, the shoes didn't feel "right". I tried to calmly help her through, coaxing her gently to just try and push through so she could take her class, but in the blink of an eye she exploded into angry tears, and started screaming at me.
In these moments, rooms evaporate for me. I don't see the people staring at us for a little while, I just see Ellie melting down. My brain goes into crisis control mode as I try to figure out how to navigate this particular meltdown. This day I remember trying to get through to her by talking to her in a low, calm voice. I remember her screaming things at me, calling me names, telling me she hated me and wanted to kill me. I remember reaching out to try and touch her, hoping my touch, maybe a hug, could calm her. She tried to hit me, and then ran from me, in and out of people in the small studio, hurling herself into a bathroom and slamming the door. My breath left my body for a moment as that door slammed so loudly, rattling my brain. Then her screams came, echoing out of the small bathroom, and into the dance studio, making my heart cringe. I stood helplessly by the door, becoming more aware of the room and the other moms who wouldn't look at me. I cajoled Austin into playing a game on my phone, and he happily settled himself into a corner. 10 minutes later Ellie reappeared, completely spent, exhausted from herself. My husband walked in then, and after a quick, whispered explanation of the events, he took Austin and Ellie home, leaving me at the dance studio to wait for Annie.
I remember sitting down again, this time completely aware of what people were thinking. I sat quietly for a minute, fiddling with my phone, pretending to check something, trying to calm my racing thoughts and emotions. Finally I looked up, and as I did, met the eyes of another mom. Directly across from me, she had been there the entire time. She didn't flinch or look away, but instead calmly said those five words...
You are a good mom.
She said it matter-of-factly. Firmly. Without question. As if she'd known me for years, even though I only knew her by face. I managed a smile, thanked her, and excused myself to step outside for a minute, where I burst into tears. It was nicest thing anyone could have done for me, and her kindness overwhelmed me. To this day I'm sure she doesn't know how much her simple words impacted me, but they did. She'd seen the worst, and she was kind. She, the mother of one daughter who I've never heard utter a cross word, was kind.
I know I'm a good mom. I love my children. I care for my children. I provide a nice home, clean clothes, good food. I've sought help for the ones who need it, and been their best advocate. I am proud of their accomplishments, however big or small. However in those horrible moments, when I feel the weight of people's stares, I feel like the worst mom in the world. I feel the pressure of their thoughts, their judgement. Yet, with those five simple words, I was lifted up. Lifted back to the realization that I AM a good mom.
This is hard for me to share. It's like wearing my heart on my sleeve, but I feel moved to do so. In this month of Autism Awareness I feel a responsibility to share a little more of the reality of my life. A thread on facebook brought this incident back to my mind, and this great article prompted me to write my own thoughts. Yes, it's tough. But how can we help people be aware if we don't share?
By sharing we can help others. By sharing we bring people together. By sharing we create awareness, and find solutions. By sharing we make lifelong friends.
By sharing we make a difference.