I'm a mother who has a son with significant behavioral disabilities. I love him. But I do not always like him.
Wolf is hard to like. Socially strangled by his Asperger Syndrome, he is inappropriate, rude, and sometimes downright frightening in his behavior towards others. He is difficult to communicate with because all he wants to talk about are subjects of interest in Wolf's World, something most people tolerate upon first meeting him but after a while slowly retreat from. It's embarrassing and complicated to explain, and some days I get tired of trying it.
Listening to Wolf hem and haw and dodge and weave his way around any form of family therapy this morning, I was struck by a terrible thought: "I don't like you right now."
The ferocity by which my brain came up with this statement surprised and shocked me. What the heck kind of mother am I, to even think such a thing? Whoa. Here I was, tired beyond belief at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, drinking coffee from the day before because I was too tired to grind fresh beans and make some in the camping coffee pot because we have been too lazy to buy ourselves a new coffee maker because.....because....because. And here is this teenage mutant ninja turtle on the other end of the phone filling my head with I dunno's and Whatevers and I Didn't Do Its. I wanted to disconnect the phone, I wanted to scream, but most of all, I wanted him to shut. up.
Some days are like this. I'm not perfect at this caregiving thing. I'm most of all not perfect at this parenting thing, but after 16 years of trying both, I've learned not to fight the feeling. Why? Sometimes our feelings are the only way we have of controlling the roller coaster lives we lead. The careful distinction between feelings and actions, however, is our sense of right and wrong, the moral compass that directs us North to Empathy and South to Compassion; East and West to Love and Sympathy. Some days that compass spins so fast I feel as if I could be catapaulted right off into space and never be seen again, but eventually it slows down enough to let me grab the dial and stop for a second and remind myself why I do this, and for whom.
That gravelly-voiced teenager on the telephone is mine; the same child who enchanted me with his giggle as a baby and charmed me with his wit as a grade schooler and now as a young man struggles to get people, even me, to like him in crazy, desperate ways he shouldn't have to try. I forget that sometimes.
I don't have to like him every day; I'm sure he doesn't like me all the time. In fact, I am almost sure of it. A little moral guidance for us both, today.