Editor’s Note: We are proud to partner with Listen to Your Mother Nashville, a show of women reading stories of motherhood. We have asked a few of our own mothers and bloggers to write stories of motherhood as the event draws near. Join us each Monday for their stories, and join us for the show on April 26.
Life is a series of graduations, and motherhood, even more so, a myriad. Birth mothers graduate from a less complicated life to nine months of anticipation to caretaker of the minutiae ad nausem of the newborn delight of their heart. Those wee ones graduate from the womb and begin a series of graduations: from breast, from diapers, from cribs, from kindergarten. And on….
But for some mothers, graduations happen less frequently or never come at all. I could go on listing the types of graduations that never occur for my sister mothers who inhabit our differently abled world. Our journeys to graduations or lack of them vary according to the conditions of our offspring, but I’ll focus on my own lack of pomp and circumstance in my life with my daughter who has autism.
She is nearly two decades old now, and we fell off the graduation stage for big girl panties at nighttime and during school, several years ago and have been sporting bulky, expensive big girl pull-ups. Many mornings we never accomplish the big-girl task of a made bed because we must unmake the bed and put soaked sheets into the washer.
We never graduated to spend the-night-parties with girlfriends. During the elementary school years, birthday party invitations turned from a trickle to an empty mailbox. Clicking “decline” to Facebook invitations is derigour because most of the time it’s a school night and I know the expense and hassle of booking a sitter for my 19-year-old is doled out over selectively chosen calendar dates and occasions.
Like a good student, I began my studies long ago, back when she was first diagnosed with her disorder. I knew that the day would come when I would stand where I do now, teetering on a precipice, peering into a black hole of diminishing services and opportunities, the vacuum greedily gulping my time while I wave goodbye and cheer my friends’ children as they grip the steering wheels of cars headed for college. Those are the same young men and women who once played with my daughter in a mothers’ playgroup back before I knew that graduations would be less common in this life of ours.
I foresee someday the wedding invitations I will receive, knowing that my daughter will never graduate to that milestone, nor bear me grand babes with graduations of their own to come.
The hardest graduation I’m facing right now is what will come when she has finally left public school transition services. I am working steadily to create an arts nonprofit social enterprise for her and her like-abled peers. But where will she live and just how compromised will my freedom be, as she stays in the nest? Our world here, in the state where we live, does not grant her the supports to graduate from the nest and fly from my home to one of her own. I am working, too, on creating that other nest for her away from my own, but I’ve yet to figure out from where all the twigs and mud mortar are to be found so that her home away from me can exist. I know that she must graduate from me and my nest someday. I take good care of myself and I aim to live a life of three digits, but someday I will no longer be there to tend for the loved one whose graduation days are less than others’ and sometimes never arrive.
An autism author and speaker, Leisa A. Hammett prefers to focus on all the things that are beautiful and the lessons learned from the life that didn’t go as planned, but she is also learning that the raw and not-so-pretty truth about autism/disAbility motherhood also needs to be told and heard. She joins the cast of Listen to Your Mother this month to share another insight about parenting without a graduation date.