Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and my sweet husband has planned to take us for a ride down the shore (we’re in Jersey… we like to go down the shore… but I wouldn’t say we are very ‘Jersey Shore’ if at all). I can’t even express exactly how good it made me feel for him to rush around tonight packing things for our little morning joy ride and beach walk, but it made me feel very warm and loved. What a good feeling that is.
And I wanted to take a second to reflect a little bit about love and motherhood with a child on the spectrum. I find that it is a common misconception about people on the spectrum that they ‘do not feel love or show affection.’ This can be the case, but I find, especially as our family networks and meets other families with members on the spectrum, that this is not a very accurate idea. I think a better way to look at it is that people on the spectrum might not show affection or communicate it the same way as others. Some on the spectrum can’t show it physically because it hurts to do it. Literally. But I don’t think there is a lack of love.
Our son, for instance, is a very sweet and loving little guy. Emotions are very hard for him to grasp, though. Still, there is no question that he experiences emotions. The issue for him comes in translating what he is feeling into some sort of cohesive message– obviously this is a likely factor in his aggressive behaviors– and that makes him frustrated. Love is definitely an easier one for him. Granted, when I say love is easy, I only have received one spontaneous “I love you” from him at this point, and his other “I love you”s have been in response to me saying “I love you, Gabe.” Quite often, he repeats the phrase and says, “I love you, Gabe.”
BUT– and this is a big but– he gives kisses and hugs and cuddles spontaneously. He tells me he wants to “go in Mommy’s nest and cuddle” (which means he wants me to lay or sit on the couch with my legs up so that he can squirm behind my legs and sit behind them like a bird in a nest). And while he sits in my nest, he gently will rub my arm and lay his head down on me.
That is love. The action of love between a mother and son. Of course my heart would dance with joy if he were to start spontaneously saying “I love you” or expressing his emotions more clearly in general, but I know my son loves me. He shows me every day in some way. And sure, there are times when it is hard to tell, and the communication lines are so very mixed up and confusing for him and for me, but that loves is there.
Our love, mother and child, is what leads us through the dark… hand in hand. This journey of parenting– heck, I’ll even say special needs parenting– is the hardest and most rewarding of my lifetime, and what a gift it is to be the mother of my children. How grateful I am for them. Because of them, how I grow. And as I learn the balance of being a tiger and a lamb for my children, I hope I do them justice. I hope I show them what it is to be … loved and loving.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mommies everywhere. Cheers to you!