Well it seems that it is time for another Tara-processing-her-thoughts post.
I can just feel your excitement. :)
This afternoon we met with our counsellor at the Children's Mental Health Centre. This is the second time Doug and I have met with her. The meetings are about Aiden and he will eventually participate in things but not yet. So far it is just a zillion questions to Doug and I.
This past week the counsellor met with Aiden's Aide from his class, the special needs director at the school and a psychologist who specializes in kids like Aiden. The psychologist was in Toronto- which is a 25 hour drive from where we are- so they met via video conferencing.
Today the counsellor passed on to us some of what they talked about in that meeting.
So far it is all things we have covered before with various specialists. The way it works is that the psychologist was sent Aiden's huge file, she went through it all and then asked questions and listened to the concerns from the school's perspective. Then she asked the counsellor a bunch of questions that she, in turn, asked us. She wants to know why we didn't keep Aiden on Ritalin. She wants to discuss that further (READ: I'm pretty sure she wants us to put my kid on more drugs). She wants the counsellor to discuss attachment issues with me because my post partum depression is a red flag that needs to be looked into further (READ: she wonders if I bonded appropriately with Aiden or if I abused him in any way etc.). She wants us to put Aiden in more extra-curricular activities (READ: she doesn't think we are doing enough to help him). She wants us to participate in a 10-week intensive parenting course thing with the counsellor (READ: she is pretty sure a lot of Aiden's issues can be cured with better parenting). She wants the counsellor to do home observations (READ: she needs to find out how dysfunctional our home life is). She wants to know what we are doing about Aiden's obsession with Star Wars (READ: she think it is our fault that he is obsessed with being a Jedi for the dark side).
In my head I KNOW why they need to know all this information and it is not a personal attack. I KNOW that they are doing their best to help. I KNOW that the psychologist has never even met us and the counsellor has only seen us for a couple hours total so there is a LOT they have to ask us.
Here's the thing though... I have spent YEARS being judged a bad parent by a lot of people. They see how Aiden acts and assume that it is because we suck as parents. As you all know I am a pastor's wife and in the past church folks have given me MUCH advice on how to better parent my child. When Aiden would freak out at church some people would walk by and glare at me and shake their heads in disapproval. When Aiden was finally diagnosed with Autism people who had not spoken to me in months and months suddenly started being very friendly and understanding because now I had a "legitimate" reason for having such a disruptive child. I'm not saying Aiden wasn't disruptive... he was. And I'm not saying that everyone responded the same way, some people were positively beautiful about it. I could cry right now thinking of the compassion my friend Becky and her husband and kids showed me right from the start. But it sure did hurt to be judged so harshly by some.
I have been glared at in stores. I have been given more unsolicited and unhelpful advice than I could ever hope to remember... or maybe I should say more than I can ever hope to forget. I have been told by professionals and lay people alike that if we would just "give that kid some firm discipline he would turn right around". I have been told that if I would just do "such and such" that he would be cured.
Why do people assume that I have not researched how to help my own son? Why do they assume we are not doing everything we can to help him?
I have seen dozens of specialists and answered the same questions over and over and over again.
And I have had to answer their inquiries about my post partum depression and how I handled myself and my children during that time.
This time they even want to meet with Doug seperately to ask him about me and how my depression has affected our family.
Don't get me wrong... I KNOW my depression has affected Aiden and my whole family. I do. I'm not an idiot. I am not blind. I am not delusional.
But it IS hard for me.
It is hard for me to answer the questions over and over again.
Professional: tell me about Aiden's first year... how did you respond to him? How did you deal with your anger? etc. etc.
Me: Well, Aiden cried 12-13 hours per day and I carried him, rocked him, sang to him, fed him, changed him, and then cried with him for the remaining 11 hours. He never slept longer than 2 hours at a time and most of those were spent in my arms or on his father's chest. That lasted until he was over a year old. When I couldn't handle it I called his father and he would take over until I could function again. We split the day into shifts... I took the middle of the night, Doug took early mornings, I took during the day while Doug was at work, Doug took evenings after work. We constantly asked for help and received none. Thanks for asking.
It is hard to analyze, yet again, how much of Aiden's difficulties are my fault.
Because you know what? I didn't CHOOSE to have post partum depression. Aiden didn't CHOOSE to have a mentally-screwed up mom. My husband didn't CHOOSE for his wife to turn into a completely different person that was unable to function normally.
But that is what happened.
And it's not fair. To any of us.
And it frustrates me that I started asking for help for myself and for Aiden from the time Aiden was 2 weeks old. I KNEW something was wrong. So they put me on some medication and that helped me a bit... but really, is it even possible to be happy when your child is that unhappy?
But they told me Aiden had "classic colic" and that it would just go away. And then when he was older and still high-needs they said it was just because he was a boy or it was my fault because he was my first and I was stressed out and didn't know what I was doing etc. And then when he got even older they said it was just because we didn't discipline him properly and we weren't consistent enough.
It wasn't until his teachers started to ask for help that the professionals paid any attention to me. And you know what? Even then I had to bring a dear friend of ours who had some serious clout in the system with me to the meeting before they were prepared to actually do anything. Thanks again for that Jonathan... you made all the difference and I am so grateful.
NOW we have all sorts of folks wanting to observe and analyze us. But what do we do with the 7 years they ignored us?
I already feel like a crappy mom most of the time. I don't really need them to write a report to tell me that. Maybe I should just ask them to write a letter that Aiden can hand to his therapist one day.
Dear Aiden's adulthood therapist:
It is all his mother's fault.
love & kisses,
the Medical professionals, Educational specialists, and Mental Health Centre.
After Olivia was born the public health nurse came to visit us to see if I had any questions etc. This is a program that I THINK is available across Canada because it happened after the boys were born too and we lived in a different province at that time. ANYWAY the nurse comes in and oohs and ahhs over my gorgeous two week old daughter. I had entered my third bout of post partum depression and had just started medication for that. My house is not perfect. My sons are going a little nuts and I was pretty sure she would think I was a crappy mother and housekeeper but felt rather powerless to change. But it was ok. About 10 minutes into the appointment the nurse says "well, I don't think you need me to tell you how to bathe or dress your baby" and she laughs. I apologize for the mess and chaos and she laughs again. We chat for awhile and she leaves. She calls me the next week to ask if I can be part of her resource team for new moms with questions. Then it was MY turn to laugh.
A few months later the school (or someone) recommends us to some parenting program initiative based on Aiden's behaviour. SO I get a call from the program representative who explains that she will come over to my home, observe a bit and then set me up with an "appropriate" mentor. I agreed because I figured what harm could it do? I am always open to some good mentoring and it's not like I haven't been asking for help for YEARS.
SO she arrives at my home and asks a zillion questions, observes for awhile and then goes away. I'm fairly certain I am a prime candidate since I am clearly NOT keeping it all together. She calls me the next day and says she sent a report back to the school saying I was not a candidate for the program but would I be interested in BECOMING a MENTOR?
So I say to her "um... how exactly would I qualify to be a mentor?? People all over this town are pretty sure my son is screwed up because I suck as a parent."
She says "struggling moms don't need someone perfect, they need someone real who can walk WITH them through stuff. Someone who won't judge them because they don't know what age to feed the baby what food at. Someone who won't make them feel worse for how ill-prepared they are for this job of being a mommy... I think you'd be great for that."
And that, my friends, is where the tag line of this blog comes from. I am 100% imperfect. And I try really hard to be ok with that. But when I have to answer those zillion questions about my depression and whether I bonded properly with my baby and if there are attachment issues because of my issues etc... it sure is hard to be ok with being imperfect.
All that being said I AM still happy to be getting Aiden, and us, the help we need finally :)