Tomorrow is my third Mother’s Day as a mother and I already know it will be my favourite.
In the past, Mother’s Day presents I’ve received have included Chanel sunglasses, Vivienne Westwood jewellery and expensive perfume. This year I will receive a £3.99 succulent plant bought by me, for me. Because I know my babies would if they could.
The expensive presents were purchased begrudgingly by my soon to be ex-husband. Bought out of guilt, or maybe just to throw in my face at some future point in time when he needed a way to prove to me that I was the terrible person and he was the good person. The joy of the lovely present would soon become tainted and I knew that the minute I opened it.
The past three Mother’s Days have been tense affairs. Any celebration or ‘event’ was always a tense affair. Each and every single time, without fail, my husband would start an argument with me to ruin the day. Mother’s Day was no exception.
I can’t remember how any of the arguments started but I remember how they all ended. With me in tears, feeling desperate, alone and like I had no way out. I would sit there as he bellowed at me for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, maybe an hour. As his voice was booming in my ears I would be fantasising about ways I could break out of the hell I was living. But at that time I wasn’t strong enough and it was just a fantasy to think I could get away. I was deep under his control.
There was no point trying to leave, he would follow me. If I tried to defend myself I was ‘making it worse’ and if I ignored his screamed questions I was ‘disrespecting’ him. I absolutely could not win.
The expensive presents meant nothing. Actually it was worse than that; they meant I was still under his control. They meant I would spend the day walking on eggshells waiting for his inevitable explosion into a fit of rage. They reminded me that he could control my day with his moods and arguments and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
Until I did. Until I threw him out. Until I found the strength for myself and my children and I threw him out.
So tomorrow there will be no expensive presents. There will be no fit of rage. Not in this house anyway. There will be no tension, no anxiety, no sense of foreboding, no crying.
There will just be me and my boys. Loving each other and spending the day feeling happy and lucky and grateful for our succulent plant.
I get it. Talking about learning difficulties is awkward and uncool. People don’t know what to say so they just skip past it, as if I haven’t even spoken. I do get it.
But I still get pissed off. It still pisses me off that my thoughts and feelings aren’t acknowledged. Not because I’m important and deserve to be heard, but because I’m seemingly being ignored while parents of typical children are eagerly chatting away to each other.
Remember that scene in ‘The Beach’ (the Leo movie with the All Saints song) where a man with a manky leg is taken to the opposite side of the island to fester and die alone because his presence is ruining the enjoyment of the idyllic beach for the other non-manky legged inhabitants? Well I’m the man with the manky leg. Me talking about the struggles I have with my child with learning disabilities pricks the parenting bubble of the ‘normal’ mums and they just want to enjoy that god damn beach without me ruining it for them.
I commented on a well know blogger/vlogger’s Instagram post the other day. It was World Book Day and she’d posted some corny shit about how children are made readers in their parents’ laps. Then some other earnest parent smugly commented ‘a child who reads is an adult who thinks’, as if she’d imparted some massive and important pearl of wisdom.
My comment wasn’t bitchy or self pitying, I just wrote that my child had no interest in books due to his learning difficulties and I wished he would sit on my lap to read. I suppose I was trying to make the point that it isn’t always down to the parent if the child isn’t into books. And it doesn’t mean that my child will not think as an adult because he didn’t read ‘That’s Not My Train’ as a 2 year old.
Straight underneath my comment an online children’s store account wrote ‘reading on laps is the best!’ and then went on to try to flog the blogger a book that was conveniently stocked in their shop. They totally ignored my comment. Insensitive. But it’s okay, they had a book to flog.
What pissed me off though, was that this blogger then replied to the childrens store account but ignored my comment completely. Just totally ignored it. Like it wasn’t even there. And she’d seen it because it was directly above the one she was gushing over.
Okay, she doesn’t have a duty to reply; okay she might have been busy; okay she might have overlooked my comment and not seen it. But I doubt it. I think it was too awkward and she didn’t know what to say. So she ignored it. It happens a lot.
Some of my own friends ignore the issue. Just never mention it, like it isn’t happening. And if I start to talk about it they close down; don’t reply; change the subject. One even told me she wasn’t being rude, she just didn’t know what she was supposed to say and it made her feel uncomfortable. Bloody hell. Sorry about that.
Other friends try to help. Send me links to articles about how one boy ‘beat his autism’ when his mum cut out gluten from his diet. Or tell me how a friend of a friend had a son who didn’t start to talk until he was 5 and now he wouldn’t shut up. Or tag me in posts on Facebook about how great dogs are for children on the spectrum.
Some friends tell me what they think I want to hear. Try to convince me that there isn’t actually a problem, he’s ‘just a typical boy’, he will ‘grow out of it and be fine’. I actually feel for these friends because I too can be guilty of telling people what I think they want to hear. People pleasing. It’s an affliction.
A few friends just listen. Even fewer actually ask me how my boy’s doing. How I’m doing. Ask me how I’m feeling, if I’m getting enough sleep, if I’m getting enough help. They tell me they admire my strength but if I’m not feeling strong it’s okay to lean on them. They’re there for me. They don’t have the answers but they’re there for me. These friends are few but they’re invaluable.
If you have a friend like me I implore you to be amongst the latter group of people. Don’t profess to know how they feel, just ask them and listen. Just be there and let them know you care about them and care about what they’re going through. I never expect anyone to give me a solution but sometimes I just need to be able to talk and put my worries out there. Without fear of upsetting someone with my sadness or making them feel uncomfortable.
And if you don’t have a friend like me but if someone happens to mention their child’s disabilities to you, for the love of God don’t ignore it. Respond to whatever they’ve said in some way. Being a special needs parent is hard enough as it is without feeling we’re being ignored.
We’re not looking for solutions and answers, we just need to talk things through and let out our worries/fears/emotions sometimes. Or in my case with the blogger, give another perspective; speak out on behalf of those who are different. Remind people that not everyone is going down the same path with their children and we matter too.