Monday, November 24, 2008

"Enjoy the ride while you’re still on it"

My mother said this to me a very long time ago. Not the exact quote, but something similar like “Don’t wish your life away,” but at the time I scoffed at her remark. It came in response to a remark that I had made to her: “I can’t believe how hard these kids are, I’m going to tell my kids not to have kids when they grow up because I love them.”

She was shocked at what I had said. “Do you hear yourself?” She said to me like a mother scolding her small child, but little did she or the rest of us know that my kids were yet to be diagnosed with autism. So, there was just cause for what I was thinking and going through, and realized later that not all kids were like my kids.

But at the time my mother made me feel like a woman who shouldn't have kids if this was my attitude—like how selfish I was and then I felt even more miserable about my situation. I was so overwhelmed by my kids (pre-diagnosis) that I actually remember thinking that I was amazed at how many people even had kids and then kept having them. Was I missing something? I even remember my cousin telling me before I had kids, that having a child was the best thing that she’d ever done.

I felt manipulated standing in the kitchen with my 1 and 2 year old and thinking that this was a scam. People say this to you (like your own mother) just to get you to have kids so that they can have grandchildren. This was a true fact, by the way. My mother was after me practically since my wedding day (at 25) to have my first child. I told her “What was the rush, I just got married.” She, by the way, got pregnant on her honeymoon. Um, no thanks! I said to her that I needed more stability: like making more money and buying a house before I had kids. She was not happy. Then she finally admitted to me that all her friends were grandparents and that she was feeling left out. Ha, case in point.

As time went on: receiving the tough autism diagnoses; busy learning, training, therapies and advocacy—every thing from a–z associated with raising kids with a disability, I was certain that I was not going to be happy until my kids were actually all grown up and I could see for myself how they would turn out and what they would become—like some kind of project. I think I even wrote a poem about that. It was about how I would not be able to truly rest and have real peace until my kids were all grown up and living the life they were destined to live—with my help. To have the hard stuff done already and the daily struggles and the pain would be over. I was impatient for results and felt that no one on this planet could actual understand my reasoning. I was essentially doing what my mother warned me not to do, as if she was telling me some worldly secret—I suppose it was.

Live for today, not in the past or in the future is the key to happiness and the healthiest approach to life, is what a therapist had said; to appreciate life now and today and not look back at yesterday or look to soon for tomorrow. Wise advice, but when you’re in the thick of a tougher life than you bargained for, you tend to think that these rules simply do not apply to you, hence, I was too busy trying to fix my kids so I could negotiate as normal of a life as possible for them, that I was forgetting to enjoy them in the process.

At some point I learned to put down the books, the questions, the theories and the blame, and started to enjoy the ride, but it took some time to figure out.

This is one of the biggest reasons why I chose a residential school for Meghan (who is more than I can handle), so that I could enjoy this ride with Nick before it was too late.


Anonymous said...

I have an autistic child and I tell my typical kids all the time that I hope they do not have children. They tell me that I don't even have to tell them this because they won't after having to live with the constant stress of autism their entire lives so far. Smart kids. Life is filled with stress, financial concerns, fight with districts, worry of what will happen in the future and so on and I wouldn't wish that on my kids in a million years. I want them to have an enjoyable life, not one with constant aggravation and stress.

Holly Nappi Collins said...

I would hate to think that this was the only thing to come from this post. I think having kids--autistic kids, even, has taught me to appreciate life and everyone in it so much more than anything else ever could, especially understanding and helping those with special needs. A selfless life. And I don't regret having my kids or my life.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Holly, I got a lot more than that out of this beautiful, heartfelt post, and I'm sure others will too. What you wrote about trying to "negotiate as normal of a life as possible" for your kids and "forgetting to enjoy them in the process" really hit home with me, having gone through that with my two sons. My younger son is not autistic, but he had severe SPD and a language delay, and at the time he was just as difficult as my then non-verbal autistic son. So I found myself feeling that way too - wanting to get through the rough times and not being able to enjoy them at all. And now as they've gotten older and their issues are not as severe, I do enjoy them more, although of course new issues have come up, or else old issues have morphed. In any case, we've always done the best we can with the hand that we were dealt. Or as you so aptly put it - "in the thick of a life tougher than you bargained for." This is a great post, and I remember experiencing all these feelings. Thanks for putting them into words.

Christina said...

I guess it's sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees. I only hope when there is a day when I can look at my motherhood and am able to say that I feel as fulfilled as I thought I would before I started.

It sounds like you're getting there.