Thursday, October 4, 2012

Forgiveness: An Open Letter to My Mother

Mom -

How I wish you would listen. How I wish you would try. How I wish you would care more than you show.

I know that a lot of things in your life were not easy and that’s because of me. I was born when you were just a child. Sure you were just out of high school, but a child nonetheless. You decided to marry far too young to escape something – something that seemed to stifle you but that I’ll never understand. You were a model mother for years to the outside world, even though we walked on eggshells around you for fear of your wrath.

I forgive you for that.

Then came the day that you rediscovered him – a long lost love - and you wanted nothing to do with the life you had before. You wanted to be with him and not with the person with whom you made both a child and a commitment. You kept me away from my father – the person I was closest to – because of your own desires.

I forgive you for that.

Your life became more and more about you. I grew up with the assistance of other family members who took me under my wing. You were emotionally abusive to me, threatening to take away love and affection if I did not do as you said or take your side. You told me that I should be grateful that you did not turn me out – that you provided me a roof and food – despite the fact that it was what parents do. All I wanted was your love. Instead, I felt fear.

I forgive you for that.

When my son was diagnosed with autism, I needed the support of family. Instead, you berated me – made me feel like I had betrayed you – because I needed everyone, including my father. I needed you to understand what my world had become and what I needed to feel whole. You couldn’t get past your own feelings to see what I – your daughter – needed. You still can’t.

For what you do to me, I forgive you for that.

However, you then seemed to write my boy off. I didn’t suffer from having the family that didn’t believe he was autistic – everyone saw it – but I suffered a pain far greater than a lack of validation. Instead of putting forth the effort, instead of trying, instead of treating him like a person, you simply seemed to think that you wouldn’t have any relationship with him. He has been ignored and cast to the side.

I’ve begged you to try. I’ve begged you to see the absolutely wonderful person that he is. I’ve tried to educate you so that you would be willing to make simple accommodations for him. I’ve tried to teach you about autism so that you wouldn’t take it so personally when we can’t take him out to dinner or when he has a meltdown.

Instead, what I’ve been met with is accusations that I haven’t done a good enough job teaching you what to do. I’ve been accused of using my son’s disabilities as excuses. Instead of listening, watching, and following the model that I set for you, you look to blame someone else. You allow my siblings to do the same. You’ve made me feel like we are somewhat less because of the world – the autism community – that we find ourselves residing within.

I’m not sure I am strong enough to forgive you this time.

You see, this is no longer about me. It’s about him. He deserves a circle of support and of people who will genuinely try to include him in their lives. For lack of a better word, I am pissed as hell at the way you treat him with a general sense of neglect. I am pissed as hell that you allow and defend the way that my siblings do so.

The truth is, I want so badly to forgive you – for everything. You are my mother and I want nothing more than your approval and affection for both my beautiful little boy and me. I can’t understand why that is so hard for you to give.

So, I’ll ask again – please see the beautiful, delightful child before you. Instead of seeing a relationship that will never be what you imagined, see the possibilities. See that he is worth the extra effort – because he is – and take the time and energy to get down on his level. Sit with him. Be with him when he seems self-absorbed and closed off. You see me do it. Make yourself a part of his world.

I’m not going to ask you to do it for me, because you’ve never been willing to do that. Instead, do it for him. Ultimately, if you don’t, you are the one who is missing out on the absolutely wonderful and inspirational person he is.

You’ll also miss out on who I have become. You’ll miss out on the growth that I’ve made, the voice I’ve gained, and the strength I’ve found all in the name of my boy.

I hope that, someday, you’ll see it. I hope that you’ll see what you’ve missed in the absolute pursuit of your own desires and misguided ideas. I hope that you’ll try to be a part of his world sooner rather than later. I hope you’ll try. I also hope that you’ll end up being the mom that I’ve wanted you to be.

With all the love in the world regardless of what you give back,

Your Daughter