Susan's Blog

Monday, December 19, 2011

Past, Present, and Future Imperfect

Strange how I’m a perfectionist in some ways and Ned is a perfectionist in others. While Ned worries deeply about getting tasks done correctly — whether projects at work, paperwork at home, fixing things — he does not worry overmuch about how he’s doing with the kids. I, on the other hand, think of myself as a “big picture” person, which is really code for “lazy”, meaning, I’m someone who thinks big and is perhaps a visionary at best, but sloppy and screw-the-details at worst. But when it comes to the kids, my worrying is a bottomless pit. I don’t know if I ever rest comfortably on the ground of an interaction with Nat, Max, or Ben.

People say that kids are resilient, and I should believe them. But I don’t, deep down, in my non-resilient little girl heart. I had a mushy center, I was bruised easily, and I held/hold onto grudges. So because I don’t know how to let go of stuff, I fear that my kids don’t, either.  I know I must be wrong, but reason gets stuck in my soft core.

I saw some shopping carts at the supermarket today, the kind that have little cars attached for a toddler. I know they did not exist in Nat and Max’s day. But Max insists that they did, and that I didn’t let him ride in them. Why wouldn’t I? I would have, but they did not exist! Where does this sad little memory come from? He also reminds me of how I “killed” Seater, Tiny Mouse, his imaginary friend. I may be guilty of that. My accessory, however, was our pediatrician at the time, who scared me by saying that imaginary friends should be gone by age 6. This was back when I had no internal certainty, and so I believed her, and kept asking Max if he knew that Seater wasn’t real.

Today I was remembering that stuff and feeling sad again! But then a thought interrupted, saying, “Get over it, Max.” And then:  “Actually, get over it, me!” Then I felt this relief rush in, and said out loud, “Yup, you were not a perfect mother, not at all. Nor a perfect wife, God knows. You do the best you can, under the circumstances…”

What are “the circumstances,” I then asked myself. The stress from Nat and autism? But the clear, clean rush of thought swept in again like a raging river, washing that one away: “Can’t blame Nat. Take responsibility, but don’t blame anyone.”

Where did this voice of strength and reason come from?  I don’t know.  But I look at my two older sons and I see who they are. Max has adjusted so well to NYU and living in New York City and all that comes with that; he feels centuries away from me. Competent, clear, confident, content. Walked into that dorm room and never looked back, just like when he was a little guy starting preschool. I was the one sobbing outside in the playground.

And Nat. One month out of school and he’s surging forward. No more school, the end to decades of academic structure and one-to-one ratios.  Back home, with his flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants family. Good stuff for someone who needs consistency, right? Yet he seems fine. Starts his Day Program, all new people, new outings, new tasks, new workplace.  A ratio of around one to seven. He just goes. Today his transportation started up, and off we went in the new blue van packed with 10 other adults going to their Day Programs. He did not hesitate; he just climbed aboard.

I’m the one who’s stressed, who’s always wondering, “is it okay? Did I do that right?” Terrified at how I’m screwing up my children. Wanting to be perfect. It’s an illusion, though, that if I’m perfect to them, they will grow up with no problems, and everything will go well. It is nothing but magical thinking. Perfect cannot happen. Nor should it.


I enjoyed this. I think I needed to read it today. Thank you.

— added by Janet on Monday, December 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Oh what a wonderful thing age is, and does for us. Gives us some insight as to how we work.
Forgive yourself ! If not it can make you very ill.
Anyway it all works out in the end.

— added by Georgia on Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm

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