Captain’s Log Day 13: I feel like I have been in second grade for a year; it's only been 13 days. If you missed it, I’m in second grade with my seven-year-old daughter who has severe separation anxiety and Selective Mutism. Last week, in the midst of very real, very nearly debilitating exhaustion, I wrote all about it.
Every time I complain about the difficulty of parenting, whether the child is neurodivergent or absolutely 100% neurotypical, someone drops in my mentions to tell me either A. Children are a blessed gift from heaven that should never be taken for granted or (even less helpful) B. UR DOING IT WRONG. And yet, each time this happens, I am surprised. I’m surprised that people believe to their core that everyone should thank a deity every day for the opportunity to parent. I am surprised that people don’t think I’ve exhausted all my options. I am surprised that people expect that I should always approach this with the culturally expected female invincibility.
I’m tired, people.
And you know what? I know a lot of you are tired, too. Because there really isn’t anything worse than a person who is 1. Definitely not your child’s parent or 2. NOT A PARENT AT ALL telling you how you ought to be raising your child — especially your very challenging child.
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I’m tired. But I’m not too tired to make a list of the FAQ that people ask me ALL THE TIME as if I haven’t considered it all. So here goes.
1. Have you taken her to a therapist?
No. No. I don’t believe in therapy. That’s for kooks.
OF COURSE I TOOK HER TO A THERAPIST.
I have insurance and money and a car and a job that allows me the flexibility to do this. Of course I did it.
But what if I didn’t have those things? Would your line of questions about the various therapy modalities we’ve employed be helpful? Ask yourself before you ask me. KTHANKS.
2. Does she have Autism/some other spectrum disorder?
Does it matter? What matters when you’re raising a neurodivergent kid is that you’re doing all the things you can be doing for that kid. What does not matter? Whatever label is in their medical record.
3. Why don’t you get her an aide?
Why don’t you think I haven’t already thought about that? Do you think I love second grade? Do you think I can’t wait to work on subtraction every day? Do you think that if she would even be near an aide I wouldn’t go ahead and give her one?
Parents raising neurodivergent kids are doing their very goddang best, I assure you. Their best might not be what you think is best or even good enough — good thing you’re not the parent of that child.
4. Why don’t you just make her go to school?
Why don’t you just stop a freight train with your pinky finger? There are metaphors that exist specifically to describe situations like this.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
Stubborn as a mule.
And so on.
I am not in the business of torturing my child. I mean, I didn’t become a parent so that I could leave my hysterical child in an unfamiliar environment simply because I have a yoga class I’d like to get to or because I’m tired. Parenting is hard work. I’ve been doing it 25 years, and this is the hardest it’s ever been. But I can do hard things.
5. Are you taking care of yourself?
Well, I appreciate you asking.
ARE YOU SACRIFICING EVERY EMOTION YOU EXPERIENCE AT THE ALTAR OF YOUR CHILD AND NEVER COMPLAINING AGAIN?!
Also, no. Also, this is sexist. Have you EVER asked a man this question? Have you ever asked what my husband’s part is in this? Also, no. I am allowed to have my own feelings about my own experiences with my own child. She is allowed to feel the same depth of experience as I am. Our feelings about what’s going on are not mutually exclusive; they are beautifully individual and interdependent. My job as a mom is making room for both, not sacrificing my personhood in the misguided belief that it will somehow then transfer to my daughter. I’m not an unfeeling vessel for her development. I’m her fucking mom. SO THANKS FOR ASKING BUT NO.
6. Did something happen to her when she was a baby to give her such bad separation anxiety?
Yes. Something happened. She got her dad’s genetic material. And mine. And it’s all a mess. I mean really, truly a neurological disaster. Surround us with yellow caution tape. I might have predicted this would happen. You never know what you’re gonna get when you start getting reckless with your birth control/DNA.
Also, why does it matter?
7. Is she on medication?
Only artisanal herbs that I have hand blended to exacting specifications and lovingly turned into a delicious alcohol-free non-GMO vegan tincture.
No. Not yet. Will she be someday? Maybe. But man do y’all work for Pfizer or what? Why does everyone want to give a kid they’ve never met a sedative?
Parenting is hard enough without unsolicited advice from the peanut gallery. I’m already exhausted enough without managing the emotions and experiences of virtual strangers.