Mother’s Day – Remembering how I got here

This is the first part of a two part series. This post, I dedicate to my mother who gave me the strength and experiences that I needed to be able to handle what ever might come may way later in life. It turns out that it is a good thing she did. For that and all she did, I will always be eternally grateful.

I have one of those minds that remembers the craziest things… things from when I was 2, things that everyone else has forgotten… I remember where the scar on my knee came from even though I got it when I wasn’t even old enough to walk.

When you have a mind like that, you have to realize, everything has a lasting effect on you. Everything. Some things have more or less of an effect than others but it’s all there… all the time.

I’d like to tell you about the one thing that sticks out the most in my mind. It wasn’t from my toddler years. It was from my teen years… you know, those rebellious, often depressing, very overwhelming years.

The back story

My mother was what you would probably call “the problem child.” When your mother tells you that they’ve done it all, that there isn’t anything you could do that they hadn’t already done… well, in my mother’s case, it’s probably more true than for most.

She went on to become a paramedic and then a nurse and now works for the city in a government job… she’s done quite well for herself despite what may have been a “troubled” youth.

I remember

When I was a teenager and friends (and not friends) were drinking or even doing drugs…. I was a rather depressed kid. I didn’t do any of that stuff and had no interest in it. However, that didn’t stop friends from trying to convince me to “lighten up.”

What my mother told me, which might not be what most mothers would say, really stuck with me. I’m going to paraphrase it but this is the general idea:

I’m not saying you should try those things but I’m not going to tell you not to either. You’re a very smart boy. I’ve done just about everything that you could do so I know that you’d be alright if you did too. If you really want to try things, I won’t stop you. Just be safe and know I’m always here if you need me.

Ok, I paraphrased a lot.. it was a good talk and it wouldn’t make sense if I told you exactly how it went without context. But I think you get the idea.

Freedom to fail

What my mother gave me was the freedom to fail… at the time, I thought “How strange. Why would a mother tell her son to go ahead and do stuff that he could get addicted to and then… who knows what would happen?”

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that the freedom to fail is the exact the same thing as the freedom to live.

We all know that telling a teenager not to do something is the same thing as pushing them to do it. It’s not until you are given a choice that could shape the rest of your life that you realize a few things:

  1. You are in charge of your destiny. You’ve had control all along… it’s just been pointed out to you.
  2. Others have failed before you. You can follow to gain the same experiences or learn from theirs. It’s your choice and if you’re smart about it, you will gain valuable experiences either way.
  3. You are your own person. You are going to have to make up your mind on your own.
  4. You can only help guide, you can not control. That includes your own children. If your intentions have been good and you’ve done your best, have faith in their decisions.

My mom did have faith in me, even when I did not. Faith that I’d do just fine no matter what decision I made. That’s because she had gotten me to that point where she knew I’d be alright no matter what decision I made.

And in giving me that choice, made a huge impact on who I am today. I see my own children in a way that I know is very different than I would have if I had never had that talk with my mother. I’m not sure if it would be better or worse exactly, just different.

Children of my own

As you know, I have one child with Autism and one without. Would I have the strength, patience and understanding that I have now without my mother having faith in me that day? Possibly, it may have been a little different though.

Autism is one of those things that makes your parenting experience unlike anyone elses. Parenting in general is hard enough but when milestones are missed and all the other challenges that come with Autism, you find that you need to be so much more than the parent that everyone else told you that you’d have to be. It’s so much harder, so much more challenging.

For me though, it’s ok. I learned a long time ago that I have the freedom to fail. Not to fail my children, but to not have the answers. To not be able to be strong every single day of a year’s worth of sleepness nights. To get angry when other parents judge me because my son has a meltdown in public.

It’s not a thicker skin that I’ve developed… it’s that I have a decision, I’ve made a decision. That no matter which decision I make, it’ll be alright. That’s the freedom to fail… that’s the freedom to live.

The world still scares me and I still want to protect my children but I now know that they will be fine. When the time comes, when they are uncertain of themselves… I’ll have faith in them. I know they’ll make the right choice.

The Lesson

She didn’t say it, but she taught me the most valuable lesson I have learned in my entire life, simply by giving me the choice:

  1. I make my own decisions
  2. She has faith in me
  3. If I’m smart, it’ll work out alright no matter what I decide
  4. The freedom to fail is the freedom to live

Love you mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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3 Responses to Mother’s Day – Remembering how I got here

  1. Sharon Bartz May 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Thank you my son:) A parent can sometimes tell by their adult children’s lives which valuable lessons they have learned and sometime not. You are right in that I have always had faith in you. I was surprised by this tribute to realize what a positive impact this had on you. I read it and the first thing that popped into my mind was “WOW”. Stuart, I am so proud of you and as you know, always have been. Thank you for such a powerful tribute. Love & Faith always!

  2. Aasiyah May 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Great post, and you do have a wonderful mom who raised a smart man. Very wise how she approached life, and we can all learn from it. the constant restriction will push any sane or even insane person to do what they are not supposed to do, the freedom give them choices and if they are raised well they will make the right choice. thank you for sharing this post.

  3. Sherry Foster May 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother for Mother’s Day. She has one very inspriational Son that has inspired us all in the Autism Community of parents.

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