“So, what do you do?” I never really know how to answer this question. I usually end up lamely saying, “I don’t work. I’m just a mom.”
I was raised to believe I was destined for significant and remarkable things in this world. When I became a Christian, I transferred that belief into doing even greater things for the Kingdom of God.
Then autism happened.
Now I divide my life into two segments, before autism and after. Hence the title of project, “A.D. 299” (299.00 is the diagnostic code for autism in the DSM, the bible of the medical/mental health profession.)
Today, I’m a stay at home mom (SAHM), but not by choice. Now, my greatest achievements every day are getting everyone up and out of bed –starting with myself– getting them driven to their respective places on time, with nutritionally balanced snacks and lunches in their respective coolers; picked up by their respective times, driven additionally to their respective appointments, dates and therapies; followed by getting dinner to materialize by 7:00 (at the latest!?) while children are either running amok or deliberately planted in front of the TV to rot their brains. Finally, the home stretch of getting everything and everyone cleaned up and in bed by their respective times. Wash, rinse and repeat daily.
Standing in line at Safeway, furtively scanning “Look!” magazine and wondering how Octomom lost all that weight without surgery, running over curbs in my minivan with kids barely strapped to their seat belts, or scolding them loudly in public for being too loud in public, I may look like any other harried SAHM, but that’s just my cover.
Every superhero has a secret identity.
Wedged between the daily drop offs and pick ups, interwoven throughout the mundane routines is My Other Identity; the very atypical challenges that typically come with my other job of full-time Autism Mom.
With all due respect to the Soccer Moms, Special Needs Moms are a class above, the Green Berets of all Mommy Warriors. As Case Manager, Advocate, CEO/CIO of what feels like a small company, I commandeer an élite fleet commonly consisting over 20 professionals, all for a clientele of ONE KID. Steadily and stealthily, we wage a daily, covert war on school districts, insurance and/or government bureaucracies; all other administrative minutia, adversary, or opponent who stands in the way of truth, justice and SERVICES for my child.
By the end of the day, 3:00 pm actually, I’m already spent. The sixteen ounces of high-octane caffeine that launched me into the morning has long worn off, and I’m really not feeling so super anymore. Super has become stupor. But there are still respective pickups, respective appointments, dinners and clean ups yet to be done. The To Do list of stealth battles to be won, only got longer.
Long ago, I traded in business casual for sensible shoes and the quest for jeans-a-mom-can-actually-wear-without-looking-like-mom-jeans. Nevertheless, school administrators with PhD’s and other professionals with an array of impressive acronyms after their names –all qualified experts who outclass, out-educate, and out-smart me on every other count– tremble with dread when this Special Needs Super Mommy descends in fury, guns blazing (smartphone emails firing), cape snapping defiantly in the wind. Don’t mess, because I *will* wash, rinse and repeat daily.
My dear mother (bless her heart) laments how my talents had to be forfeited and sacrificed, “because of Jeremy.” She feels sorry for me that my passions for theater and creative arts were snuffed out “because of Jeremy.” Instead of maximizing my potential, I’m stuck crisscrossing town the same 30-mile radius, driving him to various therapies rather than to golf, facials, lady-lunches or other creature comforts she dreamt of for her only daughter. Sadly, I have no idea what a bon-bon looks like, nor do I own a single pair of pink, fluffy slippers (ineffective footwear for tackling escaping children.) Alas, the last soap opera I watched, Luke and Laura got married.
Nay, mother. The way I see it, all these and more were harnessed and funneled towards one humble beneficiary whom we jointly cherish as son and grandson. God in His providence knew this kid was going to need every resource, every ounce of creativity, every angle of out-of-the-box-thinking, every drop of grit and determination I could conjure out of myself; all to move him towards a nebulous finish line called Progress.
Every superhero has a nemesis. The arch-enemy of Jeremy’s mother, is called Bandwidth. “Because of Jeremy,” I may be limited in some pursuits. But because of Jeremy, I’ve also tapped into just how powerful, how creative, how passionate my Creator made me to be. In maximizing Jeremy’s potential, I am maximizing mine. Because of Jeremy, I’ve become a Super Mom, even if that identity remains a secret between my God and me.
I take my hat off to all Moms today, but especially the Super Ones. You know who you are. I hear your capes snapping valiantly in the wind…
Published in Dandelion Magazine, Spring 2011