As a mother, I can attest that a child is both magical and heart rending. From the moment you know you have a life inside you, the weight of every choice, every decision is on your mind. You look at life with new perspective and second guess yourself constantly.
Those baby years, before school. Where everything is new, they test their independence, learn to walk, talk and run. You look out for every possible thing that can harm them, without totally wrapping them up in cotton wool. Sometimes we learn best when we fall. The simple joys of splashing in a puddle, chasing the dog or making a squiggle and calling it “me!” with absolute pride.
Then it’s time for school. Those junior years where every day is a story waiting to be told. Adventure awaits around every corner. Sport is fun, parties are best, and being able to tell of the new books or thing that was learned. Discovering that the world is bigger than mum and dad’s yard, or even that of the family. Getting excited over all the possibilities because there is little to no fear, and dreams are still attainable.
Of course, high school arrives and along with it, another bid for independence. Ennui settles in, and cynicism soon follows. Quickly lessons are learned that adults have feet of clay and are not the superheros once thought. Promises are broken because life is messy and they cannot be privy to every adult decision. They still need protecting to a degree. Finding the balance between letting them go and keeping them close. All the while knowing that they will test out sex and drugs and you somehow just have to stay “cool” about it.
Then it is university or work. And they push away completely in their 20s. Off to figure out what the actual dream is, fully exposed to a very cruel and harsh world. A world where mistakes are not forgiven easily, and people would sooner not talk to you. As a parent all you can do is watch and hope they come home sometimes. You have to wait, for if you push they will leave.
This period of the 20-something carving out their place in the world is rough. And I know it is rough on them too. I can’t fix any problems, I can only watch and wait.
It is this watching and waiting that is causing heartache. Ms 24 has again had a meltdown and her texts and messaging created a fear that is indescribable. I am often the brunt of her meltdowns, and I understand logically that it is because she feels safe with me that she can do this. However, I had to make a hard choice yesterday. I had to choose to go no contact with her for the foreseeable future.
I deal with her outbursts on a regular basis – every second week or so. So usually, I can let it wash over me. This time, she sent the messages to someone too far away, who called me sobbing and wondering if Ms 24 was still alive. The reluctance on Ms 24’s part to respond and only doing so at the promise of involving authorities, proved to be my undoing. I sit here drugged so that I can get through my day. My body feels as though a piece is missing.
Ms 24 knows she needs help, but does not want to put in the effort. I have done everything, and I really mean everything, in my power (where I have both hands tied behind my back) to help. I left her with a promise – the next outburst would be dealt with by professionals. I can no longer be in the line of fire. Ms 24 refuses to talk to her father – and he has agreed to try and reach her. Everything is my fault – all her life choices, my fault.
It is almost as though I have lost my child. When R locked the dog out last night, I had a breakdown, because it felt like I was doing to my child what we were doing to the dog. The dog was being a shit – but I seriously could not cope.
Logically I know I am doing the right thing. And still I second guess and wonder. Where the fuck did I go wrong?
Not a happy post.
8 thoughts on “Heartache”
Every parent feels the same thing. Some of us more than others. But, you know, it doesn’t matter “where we went wrong.” We did the best we could with what we had.
Immature people blame others. Mature people blame themselves. Wise people understand that blame is a waste of time.
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I agree with the last, and I know that whatever I did was the best that I could considering my circumstances and the context. Not so sure I am laying blame on myself as what I am laying guilt. No contact with a child – at the parent’s instigation – is hard.
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I’m not sure there is a difference between blame and guilt. Each has multiple overlapping definitions. Both deal with fault.
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Okay, this is a tough one for me to address, as I don’t have quite enough valid reference points. I don’t have any children of my own. (I’m gay. Children were not an option, legally, in the years when I could have raised a child. Things have changed since then, in some places, but too late for me.) And I have a very strained relationship with my own father. (He was terrible to me as a child and a young adult, to the point where we no longer speak and haven’t done so for decades. Very long story, no time for details here.)
So, I can’t pretend to know what you’re feeling. But I CAN say, in a general way, that you can only help any person as much as they want to be helped. If you’ve done everything that you can, then that’s good enough. There is a point where it’s on them, not you, harsh as that might sound. Being an adult is hard, in so many ways, but your have to learn how to do it…
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Let me know if this link works, please?
It says I need to be logged in
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It is a good place for someone who deals with autism to have an account. Don’t need to post anything. But here it is:
As a 60-something I look back at my childhood. I saw times when people reached out. I see times my mother was actually loving. I see my father for what he did, long hours at a factory far away that left him exhausted physically and psychologically. I see both parents as a product of their times. They grew up in a time and place where strong corporal punishment was acceptable and obedience was expected. Very fundamentalist in their Christianity. So they brought that along with them to the situation.
ALL of their contemporaries were the same way. There were no influences to moderate their notion of how things should be. There was no other way for them to be other than what they were. The world model they had didn’t include autism so they had to interpret my behavior in light of what they did understand: Sin, disobedience, laziness, stupidity, and thinking I was being deliberately annoying.
My contemporaries didn’t have a choice in how they behaved and reacted. They were the products of homes with parents of the same generation as mine. Autism was not a part of their worldview either. You were assumed to act the way you did because you chose to. The fact is that none of the kids in school had much more agency than I did. But everyone likes to think agency explains why people do things.
Without agency, you can’t lay blame and shame and guilt and yet humans seem hard-wired to do that. Laying blame feels good and we don’t want to relinquish the good feeling. It absolves us from taking any personal responsibility.
A lion decides you are dinner and chases you up a tree. You may fear the lion but you don’t hate the lion. Can’t blame it. It is just doing what lions do. If a storm comes through and blows your roof off, you don’t hate the wind. A lot more human behavior falls into that category than we like to think.
Parents and teachers and peers all played out the scripts they learned. Welcome to being human.
There was also no other way for me to be other than the way I was. I had no choice in my autism. Looking back I can see behaviors that alienated people, made me look ridiculous, and left me an inviting target. I still see them in myself today and I work to moderate them. But at the time it was very easy to get into an “I’m ok but you’re not ok.” mindset. The times I wasn’t teased or when someone was actually nice to me, the times the teacher saw potential in me and encouraged me, and the times my parents let things slide and didn’t go all corporal on me when they might have were overwritten by the (very many) bad things that happened. These things happened but I didn’t start remembering them until decades later.
Ask me at the time and my life would have been unrelenting hell. I was always unhappy but I encountered nothing that many of my peers didn’t encounter. I just reacted differently. Something that would run off their back like water cut me to the core. (And that is how a bully decides on their targets.) Not their fault, not my fault, nobody’s fault. We remember bad things in bright neon lights and good things are either forgotten – or even worse – discounted.
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Thank you for sharing