Thanksgiving Miracle

“I suck at parenting” I said into the phone, to Jeff, after spending another morning being Truman’s cattle-driver, torturer, and worst enemy–all in the name of getting him to school.

I’ve been a parent for seventeen years and yet what do I know about effective parenting? It doesn’t feel like much on days like today.

Truman wouldn’t get ready for school. This is his low-key avoidance tactic. It doesn’t work, because I still make him go to school. What it does predictably do is INFURIATE me. I have to drag him from his hiding spots around the house into the kitchen. I have to physically force his feet into socks and shoes, like he’s a baby. Same with his jacket. I have to pin him between myself and the sink in the bathroom to comb his hair, else he runs away. I have to LIFT his seven-year-old self into the car because he won’t get in otherwise. At school, I have to physically place him at his desk until the teacher comes over to place a hand on his shoulders so he won’t run after me.

The other moms get to stay nice and incognito in their cars with their messy buns and their leggings. Meanwhile, I’m trudging past the drop-off line of cars trying to look like my sunglasses, beanie, and athleisure look is completely intentional.

I’m the muppet with the pitchfork in this scenario. And no pants.

Today, the last four months of doing this every day coalesced into this moment of white hot rage at the futility of hand-over-hand, step-by-step enforcing my first-grader to go do something he struggles with day after endless day.

I shouted at him as I put on his shoes. I told him I am working really hard as his mom to help him, and this behavior is making me crazy. I yelled. He cried. He told me he doesn’t like school. We moved like a shuffling chain gang to the car, where I backed out of the garage and said the prayer. Yay for praying just minutes after screaming at your little kid. Do prayers like that even work?

I suppose I am making this about me, when it’s really his struggle. I’m the parent. The adult. The person tasked with remaining call in the face of every bad/difficult behavior autism has ever thrown my way. I know enough about behavior modification to know that reacting with ANY EMOTION to such behaviors is a surefire way to make sure those behaviors are repeated.

But here’s the thing. I feel physically incapable of remaining neutral. It’s a little late to ask me to remove all emotion from my parenting life, isn’t it Universe?

The irony of disabilities parenting is that the most egregious and heinous behaviors should ideally be met with complete and utter indifference.

Reader, I suck at this.

One might think that one’s reactions to the most maddening behaviors associated with autism would dim over time. Well, it’s not actually playing out that way for me. It’s like all the neuroses, rigidity of thinking, and pervasive anxieties I’ve faced in parenting people on the spectrum these many years are building with volcanic pressure to the point where I am effing losing it.

Allow me to pause from my lament long enough to tell you about two other notable things happened today:

First, I listened to a handful of the war chapters from Alma in the Book of Mormon and while I was fairly distracted with feeling my own inadequacy, I did pick up on the fact that in every threat, hardship, and battle, the Nephites were triumphant when they relied on God and lived as He had taught them. When they didn’t, they faced those threats and hardships and battles without God’s strength behind them, which basically meant they floundered and flailed.

There was no victory.

So I salted this little nugget away and wondered what I need to be doing differently to feel shored up by divine power when I’m about to blow a gasket.

Second, I took my mom on some errands and we stopped at Habit Burger for lunch, where I happened to see two of my dear friends from college, Nick and Emily. They were there with their caboose baby and we shared big hugs and a table while we ate burgers and fries and talked about how Henry is now the age that Nick was when I first met him (stop it; mind-blown).

When we left, I thought how funny it was that I ran into them. We never see each other. And to bump into two of my favorites and share a serendipitous lunch with them? Are you kidding me? There is no such thing as a coincidence. We drove toward Target (yay Target) and I felt God had organized this little random meeting as a gift to me on a day when I felt like a person-shaped object constructed of crap and regrets.

He did that for me. He helped me see my friends and feel love–to grasp a sense that the world is bigger than my parenting woes.

He rebooted me.

I felt happy.

Reader, I was a brat this morning. I was not a great mom. I didn’t even deserve this tender mercy, and God gave it to me anyway.

Why is He so good?

I guess it’s His prerogative. He’s God and as Elder Holland has said, “Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.”

He did that for me.

The other day I read this: “And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son” (Alma 11:33).

So there you have my Thanksgiving Miracle. It’s Jesus. He redeemed me in my ineffectual, overly-emotional ways. And my Heavenly Parents turned to me and poured out love and mercy.

I mean seriously though.

They did that. For me.

  4 comments for “Thanksgiving Miracle

  1. Cindy B.
    November 17, 2018 at 12:03 am

    I enjoyed reading your post, and love how honest you are, and your ability to see the tender mercies is a great example for me. I related very much to the morning struggles to get kids to school that don’t want to go. I’ve dealt with that, with different children, having to find them, then dress and redress them, and coax them out of the car, and walk them to class just to have them cling onto you. Having the school not want you to volunteer because of how your child clings, and I would get so stressed out, and then feel so guilty at how I’d handled myself. Fighting against their anxiety does seem to be never ending, and I (and my child) did much better on the days that I was able to step back and breathe, try to see their point of view with empathy, and just not care what other people were thinking about how my kid was acting, because I knew her fears were a real battle to her. But some days, the struggle is so real, you feel like you are starting over, and you have no answers as the parent! You are a great example of determination and never ending love for your kids. ❤️ Kudos to you.

  2. Emily
    November 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    What a treat it was for us to see you, Shirley, and Charlie at lunch! You have no idea how much it lifted our spirits, in fact after you left nick and I found ourselves in awkward silence for a few moments. Then we both had to laugh about that because I mean, we are way past awkward. Your family’s sweet company took us out of our norm in a good way. The Lord is indeed good and he has blessed me in times when I have felt undeserving, more than I would care to admit. He is the ultimate parenting role model, that is certain. You, despite one morning or even all the mornings, are an amazing person and a huge role model of mine. Thanks for writing this and happy thanksgiving to you and yours!!! ❤️

  3. Jenny
    November 19, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I so relate to your struggle…only our daughter is nearly 12 now and taller than me, and I can’t pick her up and put her in the car, or in her chair at school. So she has been absent a lot, and we have to go to truancy court, and she’s in therapy and taking medication and we’re still no closer to a solution. It’s heartbreaking to see your child struggle. It also makes you mind-meltingly angry sometimes. I hope things improve for you, and I’m glad for the moments of grace that shine through the darkness.

  4. Jennie
    November 27, 2018 at 10:59 am

    1. You don’t suck, but I get what you’re saying. But, I repeat, you don’t suck
    2. This line, wow! “The irony of disabilities parenting is that the most egregious and heinous behaviors should ideally be met with complete and utter indifference.”.


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