A month ago, I was talking to my therapist. Oh yes, I’m in therapy now, to learn how to manage anxiety attacks and get some support in the middle of this chaos that I call my life. Anyway, I was talking to her and I said:
“I have to learn to let it go. My children’s behaviour is not my behaviour and I cannot control it. I can’t fix their meltdowns, even though I can do damage control and try to prevent them in the first place. I am their mother – it is my job to support and guide them and show them what acceptable behaviour is. I cannot force them to act in a particular way.”
It was an epiphany for me, because until I articulated it, I didn’t realise how much guilt I was dragging around. Guilt that my children are louder in public places, that Isaac will scream and thrash, that Amy will lose her temper and shout at me and that they both have a particular set of wants and needs that are not always the socially acceptable thing.
It’s ridiculous really, to be feeling guilty because when my son melts down, I can’t make him silent and approriate. Because I can’t change his behaviour to suit my wants – all I can do is sit next to him and wait for it to pass. And the looks I have gotten, when I’ve done this.
Contrary to popular belief, I am not a bad mother when I let my son scream in public. I am not a bad mother when my daughter shouts at me and I am not failing to provide discipline when there is yelling and screaming in the supermarket.
It is not bad parenting that my children didn’t sleep through the night. It is no fault of mine that Amy has trouble falling alseep, or that no one will eat greenery.
My children are small humans. They have wants and needs and likes all of their own, that I don’t get to control. Not even as their mother.
I am fed up with society telling me that I am wrong. That I am failing in some way, because my children are not round pegs. And I am also sick of parents with entirely neurotypical children, assuming that they have the “right” way of parenting, because they don’t have the struggles that we do.
I am HAPPY that your child loves kale. I truly am. And I LOVE that your kid prefers corn on the cob to sweets and anchovies. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that it’s something you’ve managed as a mother. It’s LUCK. You are LUCKY. And that is AWESOME, but you are no better than the rest of us.
I had to reassess my thinking tonight and instead of thinking about age-appropriate food, I had to think seriously about what my son would eat. And then I made the decision to trial baby food again, because we have feeding issues. We have SERIOUS feeding issues and I am sick of feeling like a bad mother because my kid won’t – CAN’T – eat anything that I want him to.
We saw a speech pathologist last week, who confirmed our suspicions. On top of Isaac’s textural anxiety regarding food, he has swallowing issues.
Is this the autism? Or is this the Ehlers Danlos? We don’t know. What we are pretty sure is happening, is that he is having trouble firstly chewing food and secondly, moving it to the back of his mouth to be swallowed.
His eating difficulties are not my fault. They aren’t something that I can force to disappear, even though we will be doing serious therapy for it, along with some medical tests to make sure that there are no physical reasons for the swallowing issues. But I can’t fix them. I can put the tools in place for Isaac to learn to fix them himself, but I cannot swallow for him. His entire digestive system is affected, to varying levels. I can’t change this and I can’t magic it away. It is something that exists and it is no fault of anyones.
I am sick of feeling judged when I say that my son has feeding issues. When meals are a daily struggle because I don’t care WHAT he eats, I just need him to swallow something (anything, for the love of fucking god). Like his feeding issues are something I can control.
It’s not that easy, but I wish it were.
I will continue to cheer every single time my son swallows something that isn’t liquid. I will count dinner tonight a success because egg noodles dissolve well enough with minimal chewing to slide down his throat easily.
And if this means that he lives for another year on apple and pear puree, then THAT is what I will do, and fuck everyone who says that I’m “ruining” him.
Because at this stage, I don’t care about ruining his long term palate.
I just want my kid to learn to swallow.