This is one of my writing assignments from a course with Bob Goff. In order to keep the nature of the class exclusive and private, I will not share what my writing prompt was. Enjoy!
You would think that my most challenging child would be my autistic son, but these days I struggle the most to connect with and understand Alanna.
The hardest thing to see, is the level of perfectionism and insecurities that this girl allows to run her life at such a young age. Sometimes Alanna also cries for no reason, and I never know what to do or say to her in those moments. It’s really frustrating to sometimes feel incapable of doing a job that I was created to do—Be a mom.
I’m always yelling at them. It’s the only way to gain control these days. Just the other day I told Caleb to stop yelling, while yelling at him! Go figure. I don’t feel like a very good “autism mom”. I also completely ignored Alanna while she cried in her room AGAIN for something else that I probably can’t fix and don’t understand.
I know we all have good days and bad days as parents. Many days though…
I honestly do feel like a failure as a mom.
A couple weeks ago Alanna had been in her room longer and more often than normal. Walking towards her room to check on her, I noticed that there were a few pieces of paper in front of her door. She must have slid them under there for us to see. In her handwriting they said: “I’m a terrible autism sister. I’m a failure. I’m stupid. I don’t deserve this.” Also on the floor was one of her metals that she won at a dance competition. With tears in my eyes, I wondered how this could even be happening. How could Alanna, who is only 9, be filled with so many of these insecurities? We are so positive towards her. We are constantly giving her words of affirmation and reminding her that she is a loved child of God. We pray with her and over her. What are we going to do?
It feels hopeless.
I quickly tore a piece of paper up into smaller pieces and started writing on each one. “You are fun. Jesus loves you. You are the perfect autism sibling. You are a good dancer. You are a fantastic friend. You are great with babies. You have a gentle soul. You have a wonderful voice. Mommy and daddy love you very much.” As tears continued to stream down my face, I sat on the floor in front of her locked bedroom and one by one slid these messages under her door.
Feeling slightly satisfied with that decision as a way to hopefully cheer her up, something in my soul still felt off. Will I ever understand our daughter on a deeper level? Doesn’t she know how loved she is? This is draining, overwhelming, and sad.
This is hard.
There she was, locked in her bedroom. Feeling unworthy. Crying.
Here I am, locked in my bedroom writing all this down. Feeling unworthy as a mom. Crying.
But there is hope.
Addressing both of our feelings side by side, is eye opening to the reality that “behind closed doors” we are fighting a lot of the same battles. The way Alanna feels about herself, is sometimes how I feel as a mom. This is a powerful realization that has allowed us to connect much better. Not appropriately addressing these insecurities, has cost me the ability to empathize with her. The reality is, I CAN relate to Alanna. The part that does though, is the prideful part that I typically like to keep hidden.
Behind closed doors.
I was asking Alanna to “open the door” literally and figuratively, all the while closing the door on addressing my own pain and shame as a mom. God is constantly knocking, and sliding messages under both our doors. Messages that say…
You can do this.
You are enough.
You are worthy.
You are a loved child of God.
All the same types of things that I tell Alanna every day.
Since I have written this, Alanna is in therapy and doing great! Normalizing children having mental health issues is important.
Talk about it.