A few short weeks ago, my friend Kate’s son O was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s 2 ½ years old and she and her husband have been struggling with his behavior for a long time. She recently wrote a post about the whole diagnosis process which you can find on her personal blog here, and has been struggling with parenting this challenging kid while dealing with…well…a very very busy and ambitious life that might include eradicating child abuse from the state of Texas while simultaneously embodying a liberal Catholic crunchy version of Martha Stewart. If you can’t tell, I’m completely in awe of Kate. She is a wholly amazing spirit and I count myself lucky to be one of her friends. My heart has been heavy for her lately, so I submit to the interwebs a letter to Kate!
The ending of your recent post where you were bemoaning your failures and shortcomings as a mother most assuredly broke my heart! I know that you have some amazing challenges coming your way right now, but I wanted to point out a few of the things you have going for you as well. Please don’t get me wrong, I love a pity party more than anybody, and you definitely have reason to throw one for yourself occasionally. This is not permission to crawl into a black hole of depression or anything so unproductive, rather a recognition that you’re dealing with issues on top of issues and sometimes when the hits keep coming it’s better to cry uncle and take a time out. Sorry…I get a little obscure and philosophical sometimes...I digress.
First I want you to know that ALL parents feel like they are failing at some point. Personally, I can probably count the number of days since my first positive pregnancy test more than 4 years ago that I didn’t feel like I was somehow failing one of my children. Parenthood is hard! Anyone who tells you otherwise is either trying to sell you something, on a major cocktail of antidepressants and/or alcohol, or just sucks and you shouldn’t be their friend anyway. It is freaking exhausting and I totally lose my Schmidt most days at some point. I’m not even going to pretend to know what it is like to try to parent O, whose challenges are different than our girls, though sound strikingly similar sometimes too. The point is this dear Kate: parenting is the hardest job I never knew I wanted, and parenting a kid on the spectrum surely amplifies the challenge. Give yourself a break and know when you need to put yourself in time-out. Luckily you have an amazing partner who is supportive in every way he knows how, and both of you will grow together through this learning process. Even the experts don’t know how to do it sometimes—see here for evidence please. Don’t despair! You are not alone!
Secondly, I know that you feel like you are flailing since this diagnosis and that a whole array of new challenges and concerns just opened up for you, but labeling the issue is at least a start. Before the diagnosis, you were just stuck trying to figure out a way to deal with an often inexplicably quirky kid. Now you have a name to the issue and a whole litany of different suggestions for how to deal with it. Yes, that is completely overwhelming and scary in a different way, but at least you have a place to begin. Does that make sense? Besides, you know how to wade through all the BS that is out there and come up with a plan of action that you can get behind. Which leads me to my third point…
Third, YOU ARE KATE!!!! I swear I thought you flew an invisible jet to class in college. You always had 10 million different balls in the air and plans for the future that were soo over the top outrageous that they were surely bound to work. Do you remember what you were like in college? Always studying while at the same time running several different student organizations, volunteering for the local community organizations, raising money for international development projects, traveling all over everywhere and back, etc etc etc. This is not even touching on the amazing grace and beauty that floated with you into any room you entered, and the intelligence and critical gaze you could bring to any discussion. Then, when you were a grown-up, you survived a Texas August with no air-conditioning while 9 months pregnant! You had a baby with no pain meds at all! You are AMAZING and you can do ANYTHING!
I don’t want this to sound too much like a love letter to you dearest Kate, though you surely deserve one for all the fabulousness that you bring to the world. I’m cutting myself off, lest I sound too gushy. Soo remember: 1. We all think we suck as parents sometimes. 2. This diagnosis was just the beginning of a new journey. 3. You rock and you’ll pull through. Things aren’t going to be easy for you, but when did you like to take the easy route anyway? You’ll get through all the kicking and screaming and hair pulling out and relish the times when you get to sit down and enjoy cuddling with your little O monster. Your battle-cry will be fierce, as it always has been, but will now be focused in a different direction. Oh the stories you will have to tell! I just hope we get to be in the same old folks’ home.
One of your biggest fans
P.S. You should most definitely become friends with the Stark Raving Mad Mommy!