Crushin' the Plot Twist; The Parenting Edition
Updated: Jul 26
Growing up in the 80's, television sitcoms about families were depicted from shows like the Brady Bunch, Cosby Show and Married with Children. Problems were solved in 30 minutes and everyone loved each other in the end. Those shows were written for entertainment, for ratings and rewards.Who is in charge of the measure WE use to rate ourselves as a "good" parent? Doctor Spock? Hollywood? Other parents? Media?
We have all been told that being a good parent means you put your children first and you make sacrifices. When you are a parent of a kid with extra needs, things become complicated. Like all things (physical and emotional). The struggle to be a "good" parent might lead us straight to the depths of anxiety and depression. Finding your own way through the difficulty of parenting is NOT going to look like the stuff we binge watch on sitcoms. And as much as I want to amazon prime it, it takes a while to find our sweet spot. Crushing the parenting thing is HARD.
As it turns out, I am a mom of a beautiful 19 year old boy, who struggles with a diagnosis of autism, the non verbal, non genius kind.The kind that doesn't sleep often, who did not make it in mainstream or special education, who doesn't have friends (real or imagined), who doesn't have a girl or boyfriend, will never graduate from school of any kind, drive a car, have a career, own a home or ever have a family of his own. My husband coins him a "lifer" because he will be living with us for our entire life or placed in a facility that will care for him 24 hours a day. A man child, who has been dealt a life sentence (diagnoses) without the possibility of parole (the ability to care for himself). It's not his fault and it isn't our fault either...it's a PLOT TWIST that no one really prepares for experiencing.
I fall down the rabbit hole of should have beens and think about what my life would have been if my son was neuro-typical or if I would have been brave enough to defy the science and try again for another child.
And when I'm in that rabbit hole of should haves, I become the angry mom with a chip on her shoulder, the neglected mom who feels like she doesn't belong, the resentful mom who can't believe the nerve of other moms, and the sad mom who is too fragile to be around other people's children.
When I sit in the "rabbit hole of should have beens" I can see the parts that I felt crushed from clearly. Stressing the part where I said "I felt crushed." If you go back and read the parts of my son's story, he reads like Dudley Moore's character in the 1981 movie, Arthur. He gets to live with a full staff of people caring for his every need. Not bad for a kid with no formal education or social media presence. He does not complicate life, happiness comes with having his meals hot and served on time, couldn't care less what you think about him or if the gas prices are rising.
Fortunately, I have a PLOT TWIST of my own. Full disclosure this plot took years to formulate but damn if it's not better than what I dreamt it to be.
As a parent, those rites of passages just plague me...its the stuff that trips me up. It's really not about my son's struggles but my own. Practicing what I preach as a clinical mental health counselor, I look at mindset, I examine what I have control over and focus on gratitude to ground me. These are the tools I use to survive.
I feel beyond grateful to the kind souls that have extended their time and talents to my family. Whether they did it on purpose or just provided the platform for me to check some of those rites of passages off of my list. I absolutley LOVE it when I get to experience something that wasn't in the plan. For example:
My son walked his aide down the aisle at her wedding 6 years ago.
He has a job walking the sweetest dog which so happens to be the closest thing to a best friend.
Most recently he presented a mock prom-proposal to Gabby, Bloom Mental Wellness' intake coordinator, to take him to an engagement party.
These are the moments when I become the puppet master, the executive producer making magic happen behind the scenes. It's about capturing the normal snap shots of living the neurotypical life...the fun stuff...the part where I would have played the best supporting role.
Here's the script to thriving not just surviving in life as a parent:
Be the executive producer to your own reality show.
Do not sit back and allow your should haves to destroy your happiness.
Find opportunities to make basic moments into extra, over the top, moments.
Limit your time in the rabbit holes, don't avoid them...get down in the trenches and figure out what is crushing you. THEN claw yourself out.
Find kind souls to help you.
Your plot twist is waiting for you, too. Embrace the basics but don't forget to enjoy the extras!