My son has this little obsession with his stuffies. He has about 72 according to my estimate. His bed is full of them. We bought him two stuffy hammocks and they collapsed with the weight. So they sit on his bed and sometimes at night I get paranoid that he is going to suffocate so I sneak in and take them off his bed. It's tough for me because I like to get rid of stuff. But he remembers EVERY SINGLE one I have gotten rid of and three years later he still cries at times.
We talked to his cognitive therapist about it. She said something profound, "This is a good sign. It shows that he has a lot of love to give. It shows the beauty of his care. How deep his nurturing spirit is. Eventually he may grow out of it or keep them for his kids which he told me he was planning. To get rid of any of them is obviously traumatic for him. Maybe find a place they can be stored where he can see them but not be in your way as much. But this is not an unhealthy thing. If it was in every area of his life it would be a warning signal but in one area its good. Boys do not always get to explore and expand on their nurturing sides. Dolls and house are not always accepted with their friends. Stuffies are a little less obvious but it's his way of developing that."
Then I had my epiphany. This too shall pass and I will miss it. I do appreciate it now and I was simply worried that it was unhealthy. I thought back to the Soothers they had when they were little...and how I approached it differently than other moms. I allowed THEM to decide when they were done. It was unconventional. It was judged. But it worked beautifully. Sure my one son needed a bit of help. He had the "Soother fairy" at four to ease the pain but he was ready. He asked. The other two were around 3 1/2- 4 and they woke up one day suggesting that "su su" was ready to say goodbye...that was it. We had the same circumstances with potty training. Instead of me doing the work we respected their "readiness." All three of my children were trained over night around the week of their third birthday (one was a week after, one was the week before and one was the week of.) No accidents. No need to say anything (although we did prepare them with "Bear in the Big Blue House Potty Episode" on and off.) No bed wetting or diapers. Suddenly overnight we had a conversation and they were in underwear. Easy peasy.
I realized all these "issues" I thought were a big deal only needed time and respect for their own direction. I realize they also need parental guidance and support...and some issues need professional help or parental reinforcement. Some children also do not have that inner guide so they need parents to step up. But in general circumstances, time really does make children ready to make necessary changes. Each child has their OWN timeline. Some children will not be trained until seven or eight but that is THEIR time and it will be fine. One day this will pass. In general (excluding definite disabilities in certain areas) they have enough wisdom to know when it is time to let go. Most children are not ready when we force it, but if we SUPPORT it they become ready when it is their time.
Today I looked at the huge fort of stuffies on his bed and I felt overwhelmed with love. This is my unique son full of nurturing and love. He values and has named every one. He somehow KNOWS when one is missing. He cries when he feels they are being left out or when he thinks of children who do not have any...But he also says they are his family too. And that's ok. I thought it wasn't but changing my perspective I realize it's a gift and if he treats stuffed animals with that much love, eventually when he is ready, he will treat people that way.
Yesterday, we were folding clothes together and I had a pile of underwear that was too small. He turned to me and said, "Mom, I realize I have a problem with letting things go away. I don't need that underwear - it's too small but I don't want to waste it either. It's hard for me to get rid of stuff but some stuff is ok to get rid of. I'm working on it BUT my stuffies you can NOT get rid of - ok mom?" I laughed and grabbed his six year old cheeks and kissed them all over. He is so adorable and so profound sometimes. It always catches me off guard. He comes across easy going and not as thoughtful as his older two siblings who are always saying profound things that I am sort of used to it...but with him, it catches me and I melt because it is rare for him to give expression to his feelings. When he does I am astounded because it shows how much he actually is thinking about his own issues. Near the end of folding with him he smiled his cheeky grin, "Mom? I love folding with you because it's our special time to be just us. It's kind of fun. I like chatting and being with you." Of course I lunged for him again, pulled him on my lap and covered him with kisses as he giggled. I am going to miss this age so much. I felt a pang for the future me even as I enjoyed the moment. Beautiful moments have that dichotomy for me. I realized it all passes and some of the issues we make issues of are just not worth it. Some are but some really just need time. I was too structured with my daughter. Too by the book with milestones and forcing change...and it shows.
I regret it a bit. If I carry guilt about any child...it's my oldest. She knows that. The other night I harshly corrected her for spilling something...and regretted it right away. I rarely raise my voice but if I do...it's usually with her. I told her sorry and later on I brought it up again, "Mommy is really sorry for being so harsh with your accident." "Yea mom. You do that with me sometimes and I wonder why? It was so silly for you to be so angry at me for an accident...but then I do what you do with your friends and other people...I think maybe mom is overloaded with sensory things. Maybe mom is stressed and taking it out on me. I try to think of your perspective like you taught me and I know you don't mean to do it with me." Oh rips my heart out! Sigh. "Oh honey, I am so proud of you for thinking of that and you are right I was overloaded but it's not right...and it's not fair to you. I don't deserve you." That is when she became mad, "Mom I hate it when you say you don't deserve me. You say that sometimes and it bothers me because you are the best mom a girl could ask for. You are my mom and you made me...when you say you don't deserve me it makes me feel bad." Oh another heart rip.
"You are right honey. I deserve you because you were given to me. I am not going to do everything right. In fact because you are my first you will get more of my mistakes. I learn through you and the boys benefit from that learning...and I am sorry it has to be that way...and I will try to remember that. But when I forget, know you will be prepared in a way maybe the boys won't. There will be benefits and consequences to everything and you will get some benefits...But mommy will have to fight my self blame in this area because I see how I am with you - How I expect more and it isn't fair...how I make more mistakes...and I have to remind myself not to feel shame for that and let shame control me. That would be my worst mistake. You are a gem my girl. A wonderful, accepting, generous, innocent gem. I want to cherish that." I goofily covered her cheeks in baby kisses like I did when she was little and she soaked it up...and I realized she is STILL little. She still NEEDS that affection...and too often I give it to my six year old. I often feel guilty because my affection is easier with my boys...and I have to be active with her...But is that bad? Maybe it's because she is my eldest. Maybe it comes down to self expectations and expectations on her which lead to shame and more negative behaviour. Maybe I just need to own and accept that it is what it is... and I adore her. That is enough. In that adoration and respect I will find our groove.
Parenting is hard. Especially because I am so aware and so so so fallible. And maybe I expect too much from myself and in doing so create an unfavourable environment for my kids. I am a good mother. I know this. But I am also unconventional. I don't fit in with other mothers. Sometimes I wonder if it is this:
http://autismwomensnetwork.org/article/motherhood-autistic-parenting (I am quoted in this article)
I don't know. I know every parent faces it but my awareness seems to be more profound. I think autism makes it extra poignant. Sigh.
Mothers, I admire you for what you do. It's the toughest job in the world emotionally to be responsible for a life...for the entirety of your life. It's something you can't imagine until you do it. Nothing is like motherhood in both good ways and bad. There are moments that can come close but it's so disturbing and wonderful to be responsible for a life...till death do you part. Sometimes I am honoured and sometimes I wonder how I have gotten this far.
*To see more thoughts on Autism/ Aspieness click on the Autism/Asperger's label below...there are posts on Aspie motherhood, Feeling Younger While Getting Older, The Consequences of Growing an Aspie up to reality, Gender Bias in Psychology, Famous People speculated to Have Autism, Hurtful Misconceptions about Vaccinations, What Autism Means to Me, Guest Post from Samantha Croft on Aspie Communication, Disclosing Autism,How to Create Autistic Safe Havens,Autistic Healers (#Autismpositivity2014)