I saw a posting on Facebook this morning that said “You can be a mess and still be a good mom. We are allowed to be both.” I scrolled past this quickly at first and then stopped and scrolled back up. And as I stared at the words on my computer screen I realized just how much truth and power lie in those 17 words.
I fall asleep most nights thinking of all of the ways that I can be a better and stronger mother, woman, friend and wife. I often reflect on the moments in the day that tested my patience. The instances when I believe I could have done better. And, as I replay the moments I will myself to be better the next time around. I give myself permission to be imperfect as long as I am always working to be better.
Better. How do I define better? For me better is about finding balance. Better means being stronger, but allowing myself moments of weakness. Giving more, but also learning to take what I need. Building myself up, but not feeling defeated in moments when I break down. Better is a moving target. And each day I wake up and take aim.
I set my sights on being the best I can in any particular moment. I recognize that some moments get the best of me. I learn from those moments. I admit that I do not always say and do the right thing. I pay attention to those things. I know that all of my mistakes are a part of my journey to better. As a person and as a mom.
Along the journey with Autism people tell us all the time how they admire our strength and courage. I should be grateful for the compliment. I should say thank you and move on. But when people tell us they admire our strength and courage it often reminds me just how weak and scared I really am.
This morning while walking to school with Grayson a little boy passed on the scooter and said “hi Grayson.” Grayson did not respond. I asked Grayson to say hi. He told me no. I asked him to please look his friend in the eyes and say hi. He told me no even louder. I gently told him “ok, maybe later.” As the child and his mother walked ahead of us I spoke gently to Grayson about the importance of talking to our friends. I reminded him of all of the friend conversations we are working on in treatment. I told him that it makes his friends happy when he talks to them and answers their questions.
A while later we arrived at school. I waited with Grayson and then kissed him on the head and sent him on his way. As I walked back home I thought back to that moment with his friend. I thought about how my parenting journey looks very different than I thought it would.
You see, I never imagined that I would be coaching my child to look his friends in the eyes and say “hi”. I did not think that I would need to be such an active part off my son’s social life. In my vision of my life I walked alongside my son on the way to school hearing all about his friends and his excitement for the day. But, my parenting reality is very different.
It is easy to feel defeated when I spend too much time focusing on what might have been. It makes me feel anxious and out-of-control. So I actively train my brain to focus on what is. And in our life, autism is.
Autism changed the way I define better. Sometimes better just means surviving. Sometimes is means making it to bedtime. I know that a lot parents will read that and empathize. And believe me, sometimes I do cart wheels when my typical 2 year old finally hits the sheets for the night. But as the mother of 2 sons, 1 typical and 1 not, I can tell you that the feeling I have when Grayson is down for the night is different. The survival is different. Somehow surviving another day along the autism spectrum has become a badge of honor. And sometimes, the survival alone makes me better.
Some days I am a complete mess. I do my best rise above the disheveled mess that I am and I push through to the end of the day. I survive my mess. And, my mess survives me.
17 simple words with so much truth. “You can be a mess and still be a good mom. We are allowed to be both.” I know, because I am.