Today I am happy to have my first guest post! Meet Stacia Mattan. Stacia is the author of a new blog "Clinging to Cool". She lives in the same small town I do, our paths cross often on the school yard and she's pretty all-around fantastic. Stacia is writing a better story with her life. She, like many of us, didn't get the lot in life she imagined. What makes her stand above the crowd is her distinct ability to keep moving, make the most of it, laugh in the face of danger and advocate for autism.
I hope you enjoy this heartfelt blog.
One night, a couple of years ago, it was that time of night most parents dread. The hours between dinner and bedtime when you are trying to wrangle tired children into the bath and settle them down in the hope that they will eventually fall asleep and give you a breather. My son was nearly 4 at the time. His autism was pretty severe then. In fact, at 4 he was only just beginning to speak to us. He was mostly silent until age 3. From 3 to 4 he spoke in a combination of cave-man speak and lines from TV shows. At 4, small sentences were starting to come and we would get the occasional glimpse into his amazing mind. However.. communication was very slow to come. His mounting frustration over the inability to understand and be understood resulted in behaviors, episodes, meltdowns that were so awful I can barely speak of them.
After one especially harrowing meltdown - I sat on one end of couch in silence. My husband sat on the other end. Our son sat between us, seemingly oblivious to my tears and totally engrossed in the task of spinning the wheels on his toy car.
I looked at my husband and very quietly said "I hate autism".
My son, without looking up, said "I am autism". I'll let that sink in for a moment.
I mean, this kid had barely spoken an original thought to me in his life. His main reason to speak at all was to get his needs met "Milk" "Cookie" "Read book" "Go out". And now, he drops this bomb on me.
And I won't lie. It made me feel like crap. As if I didn't already feel like the worst mother in the world... this really put me over the edge.
But it needed to be said. With those three words, I realized that I can't compartmentalize my son. I can't hate the autism but love the child. He is the sum of his parts. I mean, how would I feel if someone said "I hate women...but you're ok"?
I had to learn to love ALL of him. I don't mean tolerate, I mean love. And some days autism is not very loveable.
His words resonated with me long after that day on the couch. I think I am not alone when I confess that I am a very harsh critic when the subject matter is me. For years, I could see the best in everyone else, but when it came to myself I saw everything I didn't like. I was too fat, too short, too pale. I laughed too loud, made jokes at inappropriate times, tried too hard to be the center of attention. I wasn't athletic enough, brave enough, coordinated enough. But after having my children... and especially after John's poignant declaration on the couch... I decided I will no longer hate parts of me. Because I can't hate parts of me, and still claim to like myself.
If I impart nothing else to my children, I want them to love themselves. I want them to have a life where they don't look to others for validation. So I choose to lead by example. I strive every day to show my children that I have self confidence. That I am imperfect and love myself anyway.
I am flawed.
I am overweight.
I am loud.
I am pale.
I am funny.
I am smart.
I am kind.
I am hopeful.
I am generous.
I am loving.
I am all the parts of me.
|Stacia, Jon & Molly: Imperfect and Happy|