Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

9. I can’t be around Joaquin when I’m unhappy

At the core of this belief there is the very big and fat red itchy theory that I may have planted in Joaquin the subconscious idea that the world is not safe; that he is not welcome in my life. Sometimes I’ve thought that Joaquin may have experienced the conflict I had as a stay-at-home mother as abandonment… And so, based on these assumptions, I think I am responsible for having planted in him programs that turned on his recessive gene of autism… He developed autism to seek a safe place… To withdraw from a world that he thought didn’t welcome him.

Every time I complaint about his high needs; every time I compared him to easier children; every time I anticipated with excitement the time when Joaquin would take a nap and saw this time as the joyous desperate moments when I could do something that nourished my soul; every time I threw a tantrum in front of him; every time I expressed verbally how difficult it was being for me to accept my new life as a stay-at-home mom…

I’ve wrestled with this belief for a long year. I’ve found it at the bottom of so many situations that have made me unhappy… And I’ve done a lot of comparing of me before and me after as a way to tell myself this time I’m doing my job. I continuously ask myself about my performance as a mother. I want to be a “good mom”. So I think in a way I may have vilified my past self, casting all the light on those unflattering moments, completely ignoring the many more times that I loved Joaquin, loved having him in my life, and accepted my present.

And when I lose my bliss and inspiration, and start having an unhappy day, I feel trapped and desperate that I have to spend this day around Joaquin. I believe that being unhappy will add to those past messages. In a very subconscious way, I feel that I’m being a bad mother. I think that Joaquin will interpret my unhappiness as his fault and of course, I feel that this will break the environment of love and acceptance in which he thrives. At times like this, I wish somebody happy could take over. I wish I could disappear; drag my unhappy tail and fix it, so I can return happy and good mom again…

Sometimes I have analyzed this with my left brain and found plenty of evidence of how I have always been a good mother. Perhaps it’s true that this specific child needed more from me, but I didn’t know that at the time. And now that I know the kind of soil in which this little sapling grows best, I have raised my bar and become a mother I can be even more proud of. No need to judge who I was or what I felt before.

I have thought about my pattern, and realized that attempting to whip myself out of unhappiness is a sure way to get myself even more irritated and direct this discomfort with myself towards Joaquin (who, on those days acts out in a direct proportion to the volume of chatter in my brain).

This week I’m feeling a little out of inspiration. Have embraced it and fought it, and it’s not going away yet. I’ve noticed the gifts and opportunities this state is providing, and I continue to use everything I have learned to do all I can to snap out of it, but it seems that more than two gifts are hidden in the “grayness” of this episode. So I’m also using this time (not with much enthusiasm) to see how I deal with this fat belief that I shouldn’t be around Joaquin when I’m not happy. To attempt to change my pattern.

I’ve done okay.

He is surviving.

He is more than surviving.

And today, to see how his face lit up when Christy arrived to play with him… Eyes that said “Oh I’m so thrilled that you’ve come to rescue me from this controlling mommy who’s not playing very fun with me”. Because when I’m unhappy I act less loving, and I get a little rigid, controlling, and “teacher” when I play with Joaquin. Not sure if it is a coincidence or a biased perception, but he tends to lose his patience with me more often on these days…

As I watched him climb the stairs to the Romper Room happy and excited to play with his friend, I couldn’t help but think that maybe that’s another gift here. Maybe he’s learning that you can’t count with just two people in the world… Sometimes they get unhappy… Better to have a bigger circle.

That’s awesome for now. Grow your circle, little one!… One day I’ll teach you that true happiness lies inside yourself, no matter how big your circle.

Digging deeper

Digging Deeper
The bliss cycle is over. The spiral is taking me to a mild unhappiness… very low key sort of thing that somedays I’m able to get out of, but it’s not going for good. So I have accepted it, analyzed it, found gifts in it, tried to snap out of it, and now not sure what… Kind of just riding it, see where it goes…

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  1. On , Nani wrote:

    Con esa jeta de la foto uno puede adivinar la unhappiness, ja ja,cuando hablamos y nos reimos un poco?
    No creas queno lei todo,pero con solo la jeta uno tiene.

  2. On , Devra wrote:

    Hey, hey, don’t forget: you are your own entity, too. Are you getting enough time away from Joaquin to indulge your passions? And connect with your husband? You two were one before the littlest one came along. Moms of toddlers of all “abilities” go through this, I think.

    And I firmly believe that the answer to “Am I a good mother?” is when our kids have their own children. I didn’t get that til I had mine, but, all of a sudden, you know the answer is yes. (Obviously, that’s about my own mom; I still have a ways to go.)

  3. On , Maria wrote:

    No, Devra.. Not much time away from Joaquin to indulge on my passions or date the husband. Finally this summer I’m getting some help for the first time in over a year since Joaquin’s Son-Rise program has introduced two lovely ladies in our lives, who have volunteered their time and energy to become friends with Joaquin in a way that works for him. So right now, I may not have what I used to have, but life is providing joy, connection, and fulfillment in different ways… I’m doing a lot of work on myself (it started the day I discovered Joaquin’s autism). That’s perhaps the biggest gift this whole experience has brought to my life.

    I agree with you. Only when you have kids of your own, you get it. All of it, and then more :)

    Thank you for writing to me. I always love your comments…