Susan's Blog

Monday, January 19, 2009

It Don’t Come Easy

I am amazed by how true is the cliche that time heals all. It is interesting that our emotions either grow numb, scarred, or perhaps they deepen with time. Pain is difficult to recall, unless you find triggers that lead you right back into the space in your brain where the memory resides. We can’t remember the pain of childbirth, for example, but if you watch someone else giving birth — the pushing, the screaming, the panting, the thrashing — it can flood back to you pretty strong.

When I first began writing Making Peace With Autism, I knew that what I would have to do is go back. I would have to find ways to transport myself into the pain of Nat’s early days, when I didn’t know what he was all about. I pulled out old journals that I had kept, which oddly did not talk too explicitly about what Nat was and was not doing, but rather they contained the raw pain I was feeling in those days (when I was 27 and 28). (My emotional stew back then was centered around my need to become an adult, to become independent from my parents, believe it or not. I think I was delayed in that area, and it was not until I had my first child that I had to deal with breaking away and growing up. This dealing took on some very ugly guises and forms: horrible fights, horrible OCD, depression, fear. It’s a wonder my parents still speak to me, and it’s a tribute to the strength of our love that we are as close as we are. I guess maybe they knew somewhere inside what was going on with me and they just withstood it until it passed. And, I think they grew with me, too.) I think the reality of Nat helped us all grow much larger and wiser. At any rate, those journals transported me to my past frame of mind and heart, so that the pain memory helped open up the Nat memories, which I could then access and write down. But that was so hard, and it made me see that I was no longer in that place.

Anyway, I am learning that when change is upon me, like moving from being childless to being mother, I freak the hell out. I take my pain out on everyone around me, and on myself. I am caught inside it like a caged animal, unseeing and utterly confused. And so, I think that another reason it has been so hard to let Nat go live at The House is what it means about me.

If Nat is now at a phase where he can live somewhere else, among others, and go out on weekends with 10 friends and two chaperones, then that means that Nat is pretty much a grown-up. How did that happen? How did that boy become a man? Suddenly one of my children no longer lives with me, and that stark reality hits me in the face. If Nat is old enough to live in a group home, hang out with guys his age most of the time, food shop, do household chores (laundry, vacuuming, meal prep), and come and go here easily, that might just mean that Nat is pretty much an adult.

I have a child who is now an adult. He is not a child. I am not a young mother. I am old enough to have a kid who is an adult.

That is something that has really been bothering me, all these months. How can I be that old? I search the mirror to understand. I see small changes that I don’t like there. All of that.

I realize that I am in a new phase of life, just as Nat is. Aging has been thrust upon me, just as motherhood once was. And that is not easy.


A friend and I were just talking last night about how no one tells you the dirty little secret about how awful and difficult it is to become a mother for the first time.

Yes, yes, we love our babies and wanted them and all that, but my son’s first year was nothing short of sheer hell. When I see another young mother with a colicky infant, with that pained look on her face, I am transported back to that dark place.

When I see a mom at the mall with a child on the spectrum (funny how you can pick them out in a crowd after you have one of your own), or in the TEACCH waiting room, and I see that same expression on her face that I once wore, I am once again transported back to that time in my life. It’s weird how it all happens like that.

I found it ironic that you talked about how you don’t handle change well and how you lash out at those around you when confronted with major change. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does he? 😉

— added by ASDmomNC on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 9:12 am

Looks to me as though there is a lot of life in you yet. I have spent hours reading your blog ( for the first time) today. You write beautifully. As a teacher of kids with ASD and other special needs I have taken note of what required of me to support and educate everyone connected with my students (whom I love dearly). Thanks for your honesty.

— added by Sue on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 9:45 am

Thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us, Susan.

— added by Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 9:45 am

The way you write Susan, touches me. It reminds me of my own childhood and my mum. Thank you for this story!

— added by Aspie Bird on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I just read your Roller- Coaster Summer article and I cried at the end. How wonderful. Every time I take kids away on camp or for day trips I know that their parents have had a night( and day of worry)like yours. Us teachers lie in bed thinking about that stuff too!
Hope today is a low worry day:)

— added by Sue on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Susan, I love your blog. It always speaks to me, today in particular because I too grew up ‘slowly’ or as I call it – I was a ‘late bloomer.’

Just wanted to share – I finished Robin McGraw’s book “What’s Age Got To Do With It?” recently and it was great. She reaches women who are new mothers just starting out all the way to the Hollywood moms. There’s a lot for everyone.

Blessings to you. And Nat.

— added by Carolina Mama on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 8:40 pm

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