Parenting

Growing up I knew without a doubt that my mother loved me. I also knew that my mother was easily agitated, had high anxiety and suffered from debilitating migraines that could last days, even weeks. I learned early on how to take care of her, to try to keep stress to a minimum. I can’t say my brother and I always succeeded, we were children after all, but I think I did a fair amount of care giving at a very young age.

It was difficult for my mother to go into social situations. She would worry obsessively in the days leading up to any event, even those she genuinely was excited to attend (such as a family gathering). Once there (if she didn’t get sidetracked beforehand with a migraine from the stress) she would settle herself in and talk and talk and talk and talk. To an outsider it would look as though she was an extrovert, quite comfortable in her surroundings. But if you were to listen in you would overhear her saying things that others wouldn’t have said. Sharing deep personal information with virtual strangers. Making a blunt observation about someone – a comment that others might think but would not have uttered. We joked often about her not having a filter between her brain and mouth.

She also had strong likes and dislikes. She HATED the colour green. She HATED the coffee from McDonald’s. Don’t even get her started on Rich’s creamer. Crowds were overwhelming for her so she stayed home many times while my dad would take us to the Toronto Santa Claus parade and other exhausting but exciting venues as children.

It wasn’t until I became a mother to a son who exhibited many of the same characteristics that I began to see my mother in a new light. I began to understand and appreciate the lengths my mother went to try to overcome the challenges she faced in her life. It was important to her that I not feel as socially awkward and isolated as she had as a child. She signed me up for Brownies and when I began to balk at going, getting migraines from working myself up with worry, she put aside her own anxieties and became a Brownie leader. Of course I didn’t understand then how hard that must have been for her. To this day, those Girl Guide outings and camps are some of my best memories. I became so comfortable going that I moved on to Guides and my mother was able to fade into the distance.

During first grade I began to experience stomach aches and frequent headaches. My parents took me to the doctor, had my eyes checked and it was determined that these symptoms were due to stress. I was stressed – I remember being worried all the time that I was doing something wrong or was going to get in to trouble. I had this free floating anxiety for much of my life – not really being able to pinpoint what I was worried about. I told my mother I was afraid of failing. She spoke with my teacher and nothing could have been further from the truth but through that discussion it was decided it might help me if my mother had more of a presence at the school. So once again my mother offered to volunteer and she began to help out in the school library. It must have helped having her close by because all of the “symptoms” began to fade away.

How hard that must have been for my mother to put herself out there. But how devoted she was to me. That makes me tear up today. We are pretty sure, having gone through the assessment process for Corbin that my mother likely has Asperger’s as well. To think that she repeatedly pushed through her anxiety and other difficulties in her attempts to help me is an amazing testament to her devotion. I know she often berates herself for not being a better mother. But when I am faced with the most difficult times for Corbin I think back to the sacrifices my mother made for me. When I feel like I cannot possibly fight one more fight for Corbin I am bolstered by all that my mother did for me. He deserves no less – a lesson my mother taught me.

Update 8 years later – In 2013 my mother was indeed diagnosed with Asperger’s. While it doesn’t change who she is it certainly answered a lot of questions that everyone had, in particular hers.  I am re-posting this here to reaffirm for her that I do understand and appreciate the mother that she has been to me. 

May 13, 2018

Lessons From My Mother

Growing up I knew without a doubt that my mother loved me. I also knew that my mother was easily agitated, had high anxiety and suffered from debilitating migraines that could last days, even weeks. I learned early on how to take care of her, to try to keep stress to a minimum. I can’t say my brother and I always succeeded, we were children after all, but I think I did a fair amount of care giving at a very young age. It was difficult for my mother to go into social situations. She would worry obsessively in the days leading up to any event, even those she genuinely was excited to attend (such as a family gathering). Once […]
September 3, 2017

Impossible Things

Imagine you have a job that requires you to do increasingly harder tasks each day that you go there. Let’s say you are working a desk job but every day you are expected to do 50 sit ups. You haven’t done a sit up in years and you have a bad back from a previous injury. But everyone is required to do it so you give it a try and you maybe get in 2 or 3 before you give up. Your boss critiques your performance and gives you a Level 1 – the worst level there is. He also decides that because you can’t do sit ups you probably can’t do a lot of other activities the job entails. […]
July 26, 2017

Terms of Endearment

On Sundays Corbin plays soccer in a league for kids with Autism (it goes against my belief of inclusion but sometimes he needs to decide for himself). This past Sunday we went to the states to do some shopping and we were happy with our purchases but pretty tired. We contemplated letting Corbin skip the game but he takes his commitment seriously and we don’t want to discourage that in any way. The plan was that I would take him to soccer and stop at Little Caesar’s on the way home. We were at soccer, it’s an indoor field, and the way the benches are you can’t see the other end of the field unless you lean way out. So it’s […]
June 1, 2017
Life Saver By Pool

Get In The Pool

In 2010, our darkest of times as a family, I began to use an analogy of a swimming pool when trying to describe the difficult parts of our family’s journey and I wanted to share it here. I make specific references to adoption because that is the journey I have made but I hope the analogy itself might strike a chord with other parents of kids with complex needs as well. Back when my husband and I decided to pursue adoption, we never expected it to be easy. Not at all. But there was no real way for us to know how very hard it would be until we had experienced it for ourselves. Throughout the adoption process we were […]
March 3, 2017

Remembering Stuart McLean

On February 15, 2017 writer and radio personality Stuart McLean died from cancer.I was saddened by the news of his death, deeply saddened.For him and his family and friends. But also in a selfish way I felt sad there would be no new volumes of work. No more new books and CD’s for Christmas. I wanted to do this post right away but honestly it was hard for me to admit he had died, kind of like when Robin Williams died. Grief and pure disbelief. I first heard of Stuart probably around the year 2001. Adam and I had been trying to have a baby with no luck. I was heartbroken and trying to see the good in things but […]
January 21, 2017

A Journey Through Family Centred Care

A few months ago I mentioned that I gave a 1.5 hour talk at a conference. It was at the Ontario Association for Infant and Child Development (OAICD) and the topic was Our Journey: Finding Hope and Courage within Family-Centred Care. The audience was small but perfect for my first solo presentation at a conference. I received the feedback from the conference in late November but was swamped with work and home stuff and didn’t get a chance to post.   Here is what people had to say: Fantastic! Definitely valuable insight that is needed to hear Best presentation in the whole conference! I’ll definitely be checking out her blog. Moving! Absolutely fantastic that Tina would or could share her family’s […]