Dear Absent Parent,
It’s 4 am and I’m sitting up with our child(ren) for the third morning in a row operating off of a few hours sleep. It is such a joy to know that you are probably in your bed sleeping, at work counting down the hours until sleep, or getting ready for your first shift job counting down your hours until you are back at home and ready to embark on your social life and able to go to bed and sleep all night without interruption. I’m up for the day after going to bed at midnight because I had to clean up from the day’s activities, you know, wash dishes, clean the bathroom, and clean up toys. There is no time for a nap, sometimes, no time possibly for a shower and a bird bath will have to do, just time to entertain our son(s) and/or daughter(s) to make sure that they don’t hurt themselves, run away, overflow the toilet, or eat until they throw up on my carpet. Then after I do get a moment today, I have to figure out how to pay the bills and feed us because you failed to pay your child support payment this week and my paycheck won’t be enough. I also have to worry about how to teach our ten-year old the self-help skill of taking his own shower so I won’t have to wash his body, our fourteen year old that running after boys because you have daddy issues is not going to get you where you want to be, and teach my eight year old that eating six granola bars was not bright and that’s why you are constipated. But don’t fret or worry your little head, you are safe, you don’t have to worry about a thing. It will all work out because that’s what you believe, that I get a slew of tax-free money and someone will come along to save the day so you won’t have to.
Dear Sir or Madam, I hope that you think about what could happen if I’m no longer here. The early mornings that never go away even though they get older, because Autism and Mood Disorders, they get bigger and uglier. The nights of worrying that your 14-year-old is going to sneak out of the house and not return because he or she feels that he or she is invincible. That moment when you look up and realize that you are seeing only one of your Autism Babies and not two and walk into the bathroom to find some sort of paste that you don’t recognize on your bathroom mirror and have to remove him or her from a countertop before he or she jumps. Those moments when you realize that you haven’t talked to another adult in days and your friendship circle has shrunk to the friend that knows all your struggles and the guy or girl that you loathe to talk to because it’s all about them. The moment you realize you are not in Kansas anymore and you have a set of eyes or two looking at you wondering what’s to eat when you have survived on cheeseburgers at the drive thru, day old pizza, fried chicken in a deep fryer, and Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and nary a vegetable you will meet, Fries don’t count.
I hope that you are enjoying your life, your life of worry about you and the person that you are in love with at the moment, the needs of your parents and family, while I sit with our child(ren) without family support because they are barely getting by and physically can’t watch our child(ren), finances to hire a sitter to take a breather, and sometimes working extra shifts that won’t put a dent in the needs of my little family. Being a parent of a child with a disability is tiring, mind numbing, and endless. I’m sorry I sound selfish and that I selfishly ask for you to take an hour or two out of your day to entertain your kid, teach him or her a self-help skill or remotely tell him or her to remember to wipe his or hers own ass before they walk out of the bathroom. Sorry that I ask that you pick your child up after school so I can go to school or work an extra shift because money is tight and time is tighter but I know the future is bright. But what is a joy it is knowing that you say no to doing what you should do for your child as a parent because he or she hurt your tiny feelings or because you’re just a self preserving lazy person more concerned about your bottom line than the result of how your children turn out. I’m sorry that you can decide when you want to be a parent instead of being a parent every day. I’m sorry that I encourage you to enjoy some of the best years of our child(rens) lives because they won’t be kids forever. The joy of realizing that your son is finally developmentally the age of a seven-year old and discovering that the tooth fairy delivers money after he has lost all of his baby teeth and the frustration of reminding him to not pull his permanent teeth at least once a month. That moment when you realize that your daughter is so brilliant that she could probably teach you about nebulas and stars you never heard about at eight and talk your head off to the point that your ears feel like they are going to bleed. That moment when you realize that your 14-year-old will be 18 years old in four years and that you can’t lie to her anymore about why you are not here. Sorry that you miss all of these joys and pains and sorrows.
I write this because I know that you will never read it. You will not think that it applies to you if you do. You will think that it is meant for someone else. So I take my early mornings, my addiction to caffeine, my lack of friendship, and limited finances for those moments when I can look at my children and see their smiles when my son touches the ocean for the first time at the age of 10. When my 14-year-old learns as new cadence in ROTC. When my 8-year-old announces that she will be a Cardiac Surgeon in her future. I will take the moments where we laugh with one another, lay in my bed and watch movies, and talk about what we all want to be when we grow up. I know that it’s hard for you to exist as a single being. Only having to worry about yourself, your current and future love interest, friends, future children, etc. has to weigh you down with the weight of the world. While you worry about those things, I worry about college, housing for a child that developmentally may never be able to live on his own, and a child that may decide not to be a surgeon and become a stuntwoman after all. I worry that they will never make it to Disney, never see the beach again, and always know a life of struggle. I worry that there will be too little of me one day to accomplish everything for them.
As I close this, I know that there are some judgemental people out there that wonder why I write this, because I’m not the only parent that thinks this way, and anyway it’s my blog. But these parents have struggles different from mine, regardless of that, they are still struggles. My life is not perfect and as Langston Hughes once wrote, “Life for me ain’t no crystal stair” but I will survive and make it to a point to tell others that they will survive too. If you read this and you identify, you know how I feel. If you read this and don’t understand, fine, close your browser and move on to that feel good feline video on YouTube. For those of you that are still with me, know that this post was a chore to write, but I needed to because writing at the end of the day is cathartic and though it doesn’t solve my stress, it solves my disgust for today.