Susan's Blog

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mother love, in itself

My relationship with my sons continues to change. While these changes and these three young men delight me, I have to say that the way my life keeps shifting is sometimes hard to bear.

Most of the time when I am with Nat I am aware of how in-himself he is. When I say “in-himself” I am referring to the philosopher Heidegger’s idea of the in-itself and the for-itself of things, animals, and people. We can only be in the state of in-itself when not conscious of our state at all. Which is probably impossible for cognizant beings. The for-itself, on the the other hand, is when we raise a thing or person into the state of awareness, of seeing and being seen.

What would Martin Heidegger think of someone autistic like Nat? Someone who is (maybe) not seeing himself as a person among people? Or to look at it from the flip side, as a person who is all about seeing himself and perhaps only seeing himself?

It probably doesn’t matter. I’m intellectualizing my pain. The pain comes from the eternal state of not-letting-others-in. Nat appears and acts as if he is not letting others in, as if he is not seeing them. I love him and respect him, but I do not like this part of how he acts. I’m angry, too. Why must I always have to look for him, try so hard to understand him, to connect with him? You might rightly say, “Let it go, let him go, he’s a full-grown man.”

Well, I am not interested in that. I will never let him go in some sense. Because I never really had him, not the way I want to. I’m a person who needs, who craves intense connections and it is very hard not getting that from someone I deeply love.

But — isn’t love supposed to be about accepting the package, rather than putting your need and vision onto that person? Yes, indeed, that’s part of love. But then, there’s also dumb mother love, that is just kind of unconscious, in-itself, a big mysterious lump in the universe, that just does and is. We can’t really see it, make sense of it, or even name it, for “dumb mother love” is just the surface.

More intellectualizing. It doesn’t help that Max just left. I’m so happy for him, so proud of him.  We all know that. But what I’m talking about right now is just that immovable object of dense sadness, about him going, always going. The time with Max and Nat forever more will be bound by arrival and departure. Measuring what we do together, how well we connected, was it enough, did I do this or that right?

Maybe when I think like that I’m casting our relationships completely in for-itself mode. I’m making it into a definite shape, a checklist. I’m assessing, analyzing. Intellectualizing my amorphous thing I have with them.

I don’t know what else to do, I can’t turn off my mind or my heart. I can’t stop wanting to be able to mother them again, only this time, to do it right. I also want to do it right now. And by “righ”t I mean just existing, essence next to essence, trusting that love in itself is there, is enough.


“Essence next to essence” – beautiful. This is one of the many lessons that parenting my boys with autism has taught me. The essence next to essence type of love – I have learned to take it, give it and treasure it.

— added by Suzette on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Hi Suzette. Thanks. I have learned it too, I know I have, I’ve just lost my way for a little while.

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I don’t know if it will help, but at some point my daughter changed into my best friend. And that feeling is awesome. Now I get to love her in two different ways.

— added by Donna on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm

It does help, Donna.

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I have that feeling with my two neuro-typical young adults, “wait! wait! I’m not done yet! Now I know what to do!” They were 8 and 3 when my youngest was diagnosed at 2 1/2. Their childhood is a blur to me.

— added by Susan on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm