I often feel like I’m not living up to high enough standards as a mother. I get through each day, sometimes just barely making it to bedtime or Darcy’s nightly arrival. If he’s not traveling, which is increasingly the case.
But today I had a rare win, a victory when I knew I was being exactly the mother I needed to be. This victory was surprisingly literal.
Let me back up. Darcy allowed me a pretty much free day: I slept in and took a walk by myself. I took a bath. And finally finished “Schuyler’s Monster”, a book I’d been wanting to read since it came out in 2008 with lots of bloggy and print fanfare.
“Schuyler’s Monster”, written by Rob Rummel-Hudson, is an excruciatingly honest memoir of a father’s quest to first understand why his spunky, happy daughter Schuyler could not talk, the way he copes (sometimes poorly) with the eventual devastating diagnosis and the triumphant way he becomes a great advocate for her. It’s an ongoing story you can read about on his blog.
I really connected with his memoir mostly because he calls a spade a spade and refuses to sentimentalize his story. An excruciating “monster”, as he puts it, has always commanded part of his daughter’s brain and he explains how powerless he is to fight it and expel it.
“Special needs parents are fools, every one of us. We tilt at windmills and charge into battle with the monster, rubber swords drawn.”
I am lucky to have neurotypical children, but something in the memoir felt deeply familiar yet aspirational. The sense of failure that Rob expresses at being a parent, the fierce loyalty to his daughter, the continual championing against school administrators and teachers which eventually led to her being able to communicate is compelling and admirable. He’s an incredible parent, someone to look to in awe, but also someone human. I needed to hear from someone like this.
Today the twins and I went outside to eat a snack on our patio. It was a gorgeous autumnal day full of bucolic sights and sounds of scarlet and tan leaves slowly falling to the bluestone. We have had a wasp problem on the patio which has not let us enjoy our lovely space. Today I was determined I would provide my children with a wasp-free space: I would protect their enjoyment of the day from an attack of yellow jackets. I got a rubber guitar, a fly swatter I was amused by and purchased in Memphis (it has something to do with Elvis, as most touristy knickknacks from Memphis are wont to do) and manned my space. We had five free minutes before the wasps made a wasp-line to my daughter. I went into battle with that rubber swatter and free of curses and bad words of any kind dilligently chased that yellow jacket until I vanquished it from the bluestone. I swatted three more away before the multitude descended and we retreated.
But not before my kids had enjoyed 10 minutes of an excellent fall day.
I have never been prouder of my skills as a mother.
Because parenting is so subtle and mysterious and confrontational and mind-numbing. Clear-cut victories are rare. And fleeting.
I think all parents chase various monsters with rubber swords. The vast majority of us are incredibly fortunate that our monsters are small, relatively (hopefully) easy to slay. Our monsters are not of the Tyrannosaurus Rex size, like Schuyler’s. And yet, Robert and his wife show us how to deal with them directly, honestly, with insight and most of all with passionate love for their beautiful daughter, who lives her life in laughter and, because of her parents’ persistence, with words.