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

Finding at the bottom of my subconscious

While Joaquin takes a nap in our living room, I decide to take my Frequency book and read by him. As I go through chapter 3, an incredible revelation comes over me. I start seeing it so clearly. It makes so much sense, and my heart agrees by beating rapidly, and my eyes, ears and nose also signal I may be recognizing truth with tears, and strong pulsations.

While I’ve long accepted the notion that Joaquin’s autism is in my life as a gift for my personal growth, and I have identified the many jewels it has given me, I was surprised by the sudden and unprecedented resonance I felt when I read Penney Pierce’s words in relationship to one specific unhealthy feeling habit we adopt as children as a consequence of being confronted with our parents’ fears and unhealthy patterns and adjusting ourselves to them in order to survive.

You get involved in a larger-than-life situation that monopolizes your mind and offers a great excuse for not having to fell something: You’re sick, in pain, incapacitated, depressed, shy, bankrupt, injured, in an abusive relationship, or have to take care of an ailing relative, a flailing business, or a problematic house you’re remodeling.

I feel strong sensations in my body as my mind becomes wrapped around the way how the role I’ve adopted as mother of an autistic child fits that description. The thought of my biggest fear, which has recently become a big focus in my mind, interrupts my reading several times while I finish the chapter. I don’t know how they are connected, but feel that there is something to dig up here.

So the biggest fear of my life is losing my family. When I met Joey, I feared him dying before we got married. The fear didn’t go away after marriage. It’s always there. And with the birth of Joaquin, a new character was added to it. So I now fear losing either both of them, or at least one of them. I’ve held this fear for a long time, but for a few years it went to sleep, only to be awakened again recently.

So I start asking myself why do I fear this?… When is it usually triggered, and what am I motivated to do when I experience it?

The fear of losing Joey and Joaquin normally appears when they go out together on an activity that I chose not to join because there is something more exciting to my soul that I’d rather do at that time. As soon as my mind whispers “something bad may happen to them while you stay here”, I experience guilt for not joining my family, and sometimes the fear and/or guilt makes me reconsider my choice and join them instead of doing the solitary thing I wanted to do. By joining them, they won’t be taken from me. By choosing “together” over “me alone”, I’m doing what I think all families do.

Then, as Peirce suggests, I try to find the conclusion my baby brain made for my subconscious to have created this fear…

The realization that comes to me is so clear. At first I dismiss it’s importance because I’ve consciously thought of this before. But suddenly it feels right on, and it reveals an incredible truth I was relatively unaware of…

The fear tells me “Give up your passion / yourself, or you may lose the most important people in your life”. And once more, I remember how my parents left me when I was about four years old. To their adult logic, it made perfect sense… My dad wanted to explore a new business venture in Europe; he thought he’d strike fortune; he wanted the best for his family. My mother, afraid of losing him and the financial security he provided, insecure of her ability to provide for her daughters should her husband abandon her, decided to go with him and leave both my sister and I in the care of my grandmother, her mother. So on a day in which they were selling everything we had in our home, I recognized a few of my toys in the for-sale pile. I remember protesting, maybe crying, and then being kicked out of the room in a dismissive way and without an explanation. I remember being sequestered in my parents’ bedroom in the company of my grandmother, watching through the window as a man and a little boy walked away with my beloved red tricycle. Days later (or weeks, I can’t remember) both my mother and father were not with me, and I was living in my grandmother’s house with my aunts and uncle, and my even smaller little sister.

I figure now, my baby brain must have concluded that my protests for losing my toys (the things I loved most) were the reason why I lost my parents, the people I loved most.

If you believe in the idea that we attract everything present in our lives, you may accept the fact that today I suddenly realized how I have attracted one situation in my relationship with Joaquin (his autism) and one situation in my relationship with Joey, both SO BIG and problematic, that while these situations are not resolved, I don’t believe God will take these people away from me. He can’t, because I still have much to grow from both situations. I still have much to solve. And so, both my husband and my son are safe as long as things are not “perfect” with them.

I remembered once more how the Catholic environment that surrounded me while I grew up taught me that when everything is perfect in your life, you better expect some tragedy to occur… Something bad to happen just to make sure you don’t have it perfect. And I saw with great clarity how Joaquin’s autism keeps him safe. I saw why although my mind has accepted the many gifts that this situation has given me, and although my consciousness is doing all it knows to accept the situation fully (so it finishes its job and allows a new reality to manifest), I’m still not done with it because I subconsciously believe I need Joaquin not to be “perfect” in order for God not to take him away from me.

“Give up a very important aspect in your most significant relationships, or you’ll lose these beloved ones. It can’t be perfect or you’ll risk tragedy.”

Then I thought of my parents — without judgment, because I’ve consciously forgiven them many times, and I understand the circumstances under which they acted the way they did. But I thought of their own childhoods. I remembered the much greater traumas they suffered…

My dad was put in a boarding school when he was three or four years old. His parents did this wanting the best for him. But as a tiny person, he lost his family, his sense of belonging. He was physically punished at this place, and educated in a non-loving environment of discipline.

My mother’s parents had a tremendously dysfunctional marriage. My mother grew up in a constant state of terror over the physically and verbally abusive fights my grandparents had almost on a daily basis. She remembers at least one occasion in which my grandfather pulled out a gun, lined up his wife and children, and threatened to kill them. My grandfather of course, also suffered tremendous trauma growing up as the bastard child of a single mother. He lived in poverty until he was able to stand up and make his money, a thing he learned to protect at the expense of his own hapiness.

Then I saw the pattern of abandonment.

My grandfather was abandoned. My father was abandoned. I was abandoned. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve often thought of my conflict with full-time motherhood as a form of abandonment on Joaquin. For all I consciously know, my resistance was not atypical, yet I’ve magnified it for a reason stuck in my subconscious.

I couldn’t abandon my child. I did not want to repeat the pattern. Perhaps I was even born to end the pattern on this tree. So (if you believe in this…) I subconsciously attracted a situation in which I couldn’t abandon my son. What used to happen to autistic children in the past?… What is the thing I feared most when I discovered Joaquin’s autism?… The fact that an autistic child may not grow up to be independent from his family. May never leave his home. And “coincidentally” on day 1 of my journey I found Son-Rise. So I didn’t have to give my son to some “experts” to fix. I didn’t have to put him in some “boarding school”. I willingly took charge of his recovery, and Joaquin and his Son-Rise program became the center of my life.

During the months my parents were away when I was little, I remember the horror I used to feel about their plan to reunite the family. They would send letters talking about how soon we would be together… Very soon I’d get on a plane with my little sister and go to Europe to meet them. I was four or five, and the terror of traveling alone and being responsible for my baby sister, often had me thinking that I’d rather stay with my grandmother, aunts, and uncle. I was happy there (in fact, this time of my childhood is one of the happiest I can remember). A conclusion I probably made was that my parents wouldn’t come to me. I needed to suck up my fear and come and meet them. It never happened; the enterprise failed and they returned home. But now I wonder how much of my self-judging/whipping tendencies were born from this event.

So while Joaquin sleeps in front of me I tell him…
I don’t need you to have a developmental challenge for God to let me keep you.
I don’t need you to have a challenge for me not to abandon you.
I don’t need you to only accept your parents for me to know you love me
I love you so much, and you are safe.

And I tell the little four-year-old in me…
It was not your fault that your parents left you
You don’t have to sacrifice yourself to keep those you love
You don’t have to face monsters and perform feats for you to have happiness and love.
God loves you so much, and always wants the best for you.

. . . . .

By publishing this to the world I don’t mean to provoke or welcome any kind of judgments on any of the characters of this story. My parents are kind and loving people who made mistakes like all of us do and I count them among the best parents I know. There is truly no judgment on my part. I find my discovery freeing because now I can see clearly a belief I was not aware I held; one of the many beliefs I probably fight (failing) every time that I try to align my mind body and spirit on the belief that Joaquin is developing “perfectly”.

Knowing this helps me embrace even more acceptance than I’ve been able to gather consciously about a couple of challenges in my life. It helps me to see them for the first time as “friends” rather than something less positive than that.

I post this here because my mother has taught me that family secrets must not be kept. And because one day, somebody reading this may ask herself how the challenging situation in her life serves her, how her subconscious needs this situation to exist for survival. And then she may learn something as liberating as what I’ve learned today.

Welcome to my parent mentoring service

Hello, you Super mom of an Awesome autistic child.

If my experience and words speak to you, I invite you to learn about my mentoring service for autism parents.

Intentional parenting, development, and education for our children is my passion. My purpose is to empower you with the emotional and practical support you need to thrive as you reach for every outcome you dream of for you and your child’s life.

Learn More