Ruminations on life & death...
Becoming a member of the Autism Hub has opened my world quite a bit. Previously I had found a small group of like-minded autism-related blogs that I visited regularly. Over the past few weeks I have been working my way through this much bigger group & it's a sometimes eye-opening experience. What strikes me most is the passion. There is a lot of anger in the occasional incursions of the curbie/biomed-types into the discussion & I feel the frustration of those attempting to respond respectfully (or not) but with equal passion that putting one's child's life & health at risk is not the way to deal with autism... Personally, I tend to shrink from overt confrontation (unless really pissed off), but I am seriously repelled by the almost religious fervor of those seeking a "cure" for their children with autism. What strikes me in the gut is their pathological denial of their children's personhood & lack of respect for who these kids are. What seems to matter most to them is how things appear, that their "dream child" will never be. I have never had a cherished image of who B will be- that is for him to develop for himself.
Estee's wonderful video is a breath of fresh air in the midst of this struggle. It's a less-strident but still-passionate message that autism does not mean a life ended or wasted.
I was talking with my therapist this afternoon, reflecting on my son B's life so far as compared with my own early years. The reason for the reflection was having gotten word today that my father is dying. In this early blog entry I talk about the effects of being an incest Survivor on my present life with a child with autism. My father has never met my 10-year-old child, not out of spite or anger, but because an essential part of my healing & becoming a person with self-respect was to cut off relations with my father entirely. My husband, C, has supported this completely- as he would, since I did not experience the main & most horrifically painful part of my recovery until after we were married (but, thankfully, well before B was born). I was fortunate to have married a man with the fortitude to go through my recovery alongside me & I attribute this "trial by fire" to being able to successfully & happily manage our very exciting life with B. It was empowering to compare my childhood years to B's life so far. B has learned the self-respect & has a level of comfort with himself at the age of 10 that I did not find until I was in my 40's. Sometimes I wonder why I don't doubt myself more in my child-rearing methods & style. Why do I feel pretty darn sure that what C & I are doing with & for B is right? Well. partly it's that we have the best "village" around & seek their expert advice regularly. Parly it's because there are 2 of us doing this, so we can constantly check our perceptions & tag-team when necessary. But mainly it's because my abusive upbringing made me a student of child-rearing. I have been noticing how other parents treat their children since I was very young, & as I got older I consciously bonded with & modeled myself after the people I thought were doing things well. The main common thread between all of these people I observed, & missing in my own life, was being respectful to the child. Even "love' was not allowed to overshadow respect. In my 10 years of being B's mom I have tried very hard to see him as an individual worthy of dignity & respect at all times. When I have fallen-down on the job I have apologised to him. B knows that I was raised by parents who did not behave respecfully to me. He knows that I have a birth-father that he has never met because he was a "bad daddy" to me. I have tried to explain the abuse simply to B, & only when he gets curious & asks. I was very fortunate to have found a "real" father in my step-father, who passed away 4 years ago, & to B he was the only grampie he will know. My mother & I have been able to salvage a good relationship over the years & she is a very involved grammie. My life feels whole right now, with no empty spaces, really.
As I think about my father dying, I feel as though I went through the worst when my step-father died, & that the death of my birth-father will bring mostly a final release from a small but lingering fear leftover from childhood. When I look at what I have been able to do- not only break the cycle of abuse in my branch of my family but raise a child who feels good about himself- I feel a sense of peace. I hope that my father will finally find peace, too. I have no regrets. I have the best the life I could have wished for.