Today we have a lovely guest post from a mum, Michelle Myers, who writes a blog called A Slice of Autism. As the title suggests, Michelle has a son with ASD and I thought it would be nice in this week that autism awareness is at the forefront, to bring you a guest post with her perspective of parenting and what she does when it all gets on top of her.
If you're a parent of a child with special needs, I think you'll find many parallels in your own life with Michelle's experience! Do leave her a comment at the end of the post.
Swimming Against the Tide
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming swimming,” who have would have thought that the Disney character I find myself relating to above all others is a little fish with a memory problem! But as a mother to a child with Autism believe me when I say that I often feel like I’m swimming against the tide.
You see support services don’t always come easy for children like my son, it can be a daily struggle getting the right help. And our family life is anything but ‘normal.’ We have even been known to clear a restaurant on occasions. So I know a thing or two about the judgemental glare of society and the added pressure this brings to families like ours
I have to admit that sometimes it can all just become too much and I feel like I’m drowning. I wonder where I am going to find the strength to fight another battle, never mind keep my head above the water.
And ironically it ends up being the most mundane of things that usually makes me sink - like the washing up for instance!
Last night I walked into the kitchen to face a ‘mountain’ of dirty dishes. I took one look at it all and immediately felt defeated. Defeated by the chipped bowls and coffee stained mugs, and defeated by the never ending stream of crap that seems to come my way. So I slammed the door muttering some obscenities that I won’t repeat here and stomped I off to bed in a right old sulk!
But do you know what, when I tentatively opened the kitchen door this morning that mountain of dirty dishes wasn’t half as bad as I had thought it had been. It was just my mind that had been playing tricks on me because I’m a pessimist you see - always thinking the worst.
What I should have done last night was said - so what!
It’s quite freeing really, going with the flow. And when I think about it, more often than not a positive that can be found in most situations. Even leaving the dishes!
So what if I go to bed with pots in the sink, in the grand scheme of things does it really matter – No is the answer to that, because my hubby might give in and buy me that dishwasher I’ve been after for months if I let them pile up. Tactics that is!
So what if I’m not one of the 7 million people watching Sunday night feel good TV, I have to watch it on catch up TV because my son is always too anxious to settle down on Sundays - I can fast forward the ads when I watch it later in the week anyway, happy days.
So what if my morning shower happens at 10.30 pm at night because my mornings have to focus on getting my son to school with as little stress as possible, not the state of my hair - I mean I was never a morning person anyway.
So what if the hubby and I have to book a day off work to have date afternoon because we can’t get a sitter at night - We can often get a good two for one deal midweek at the local Harvester pub.
So what if we have to take family occasions in turn as my son can’t cope with big family gatherings – It means we get to spend some quality time with our daughters when it’s our turn to attend, and the spouse at home gets remote control rights all evening. Bonus!
So what if we holiday in the same place year after year because my son can’t cope with uncertainty – At least that way we always know what to expect so there are never any nasty surprises or cockroaches under the bed.
So what if my shoes of choice are pumps and not heels in case I have to dash to intercept a child or remote control from flying across the room! - I can’t be doing with blisters at my age now so its comfort all the way for me.
So what if I have to be home by 10.30pm on a night out as my son worries about me if I’m not back by the time the news has finished - As I have gotten older I am glad of it to be honest, I would much rather be tucked up in bed with a Horlicks anyway.
So what if I had to give up my job to care for my son - One door closes another one opens as they say. I would never be sat here talking to you if I was still at my day job.
So what if the most communication I can get out of my son is via text because he finds talking about how he feels face to face so hard - I can screen shot his messages and keep it forever as a treasured memory, and use it to embarrass him at his 18th.
So what that I spend half of my day filling in forms and phoning people to get my sons needs met - If I’m honest it’s making this mama bear all the stronger for it. Grrrr!
So what if my son only wears certain socks due to his sensory issues, when we find ones he likes we buy 5 pairs – And that means that I don’t have to spend hours hunting for those odd ones that the resident sock monster likes to hide from me.
So what if we have watched Harry potter 100 million times as it’s my sons’ special interest - At least now I know what spell to use in case of an invasion of Demetors – “Expeliamus!”
So what if my son has to go to a special school as that’s where he is best placed to learn and grow, he’s happy and accepted and feels like he belongs there – And after all that’s all we ever really want for our children isn’t it, whatever school they go to.
So what if I lose some friends along the way due to our restricted social calendar - True friends will never leave my side and I would rather have two or three true friends than 10 hangers on who just want me for my drunken handbag dance moves.
So what if we are not a normal family - Who needs normal anyway! I’ve learned not to believe Facebook's perfect family portrayals. Everyone has their own story and challenges no matter how perfect their lives may appear on screen.
And finally the biggy, so what if my son is Autistic - He is still the same little person, no matter what.
The diagnosis may have come as a shock to me, and even knocked me sideways for a little while. But my son is unique and wonderful and I’m not going to let other people’s judgement affect how he feels about himself. And so what if people don’t agree with my choices, they are not living my life and don’t have to walk a day in my (comfy) shoes.
So maybe next time, if you feel yourself drowning, try and say ‘so what’ to yourself and swim away. Swim away feeling the freedom of being carried by the tide for a little while. Picture yourself floating off on an inflatable bed, cocktail in hand, and humming to yourself like the little blue fish “just keep swimming, swimming swimming.”
We mums don’t always have to swim against the tide you know, it gets exhausting after a while. So from one blue fish to another – “when life gets you down, do you know what you gotta’ do?”
Just keep swimming, swimming swimming!
- Ombudsman report says councils are “standing in the way of support” by failing to offer personal budgets during the EHCP process - November 24, 2023
- 10 reasons the Change Programme might fail, by experts from across the SEND sector - October 27, 2023
- For children with SEND and their parents, a compassionate teacher is key - October 20, 2023