I recently took my daughter for an expensive spa day where she got a beautiful mani/pedi. One day later she sat on the couch and peeled all $80 of it off with no explanation other than “I don’t know why I did it.” It was another moment of self-reflection for me. And a very real reminder that a lot of what she does cannot be helped and that I need to grow up and learn to respond better when she does things that don’t measure up to my expectations. I also had to apologize to her for maybe the millionth time in her life for going off the deep end about something that she can’t change. It seems I’ve spent most of her life saying, “I’m sorry.” MY DARLING CHILD PLEASE FORGIVE ME.
If most mothers are honest, they will tell you that they project specific expectations on to their daughters whether intentional or not. They veer and prod them in the direction they want them to go. For some mothers it’s within reason but for others they want carbon copies of themselves or at the very least a better version; and this is both sad and dangerous.
The truth is that the desperation for approval from other women starts with the mother daughter relationship or lack thereof. If you are one that is constantly correcting what you see as undesirable reflections of you or what you consider alien characteristics in your daughter, just know that she derives that same toxic relationship pattern and applies it to other relationships she has with females. She will even needlessly seek approval from strangers as she has become paranoid out of fear, they are judging her. This is about being overly critical. Harsh. This is about being unwilling to say: “I AM WRONG.” This is where the conversation that “women dress for other women” really comes from. It is an ignored subject that has created needless suffering amongst women young and old.
I however, got a quick hard slap in the face when trying to force my daughter into a mold, she did not fit in. And thank God I did.
My Queen is different from most in that she is neurodiverse. She was diagnosed with Autism at 11, ADHD at 12 and dyslexia has been mentioned in the last 6 months. Queens joys and triggers are easy, but she is complex. At the start of her life I did what most mothers do when they have a baby girl. I dressed her in pink ruffle blasted outfits that screamed GIRL! Around age two her personality was shining. She was articulate and crystal clear about her likes and dislikes. But I still had my own idea of how she should look and think, and I continued to push my standards on her. I largely ignored anything that I didn’t like.
But as Queen started school things started to unravel. The years to come would be grueling for her.
We just moved out of a really traumatizing bedtime stage for Queen and into what I thought was going to be a decently typical time in her life. We knew there were some issues but what unfolded hit us like a freight train.
Unbeknown to us, Queen was the master of SCAN AND COPY. She would observe behaviors around her that she saw getting praise and she simply copied those behaviors. She replicated every detail. We were told she was missing short term memory skills and a cognitive processing skill that would allow her to understand and remember information at a normal speed.
Imagine. You do not understand what you’re being told; what is being said comes in really funky and then what you do get you cannot remember! For you it would be like getting on a plane and hearing instructions on how to survive a crash in a language you don’t understand. Then as the plane is crashing you are completely helpless outside of watching what others do around you. This was her life. She created an elaborate fortress, a fairy tale land if you will where Queen was a perfect copy of other girls around her. She had a reference for everything. “This is the behavior that gets praise, this is the behavior that gets me in trouble. I’m going to stick with the former role everyday so NO ONE SEE’S THAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND.”
This worked until the class work got to hard and it was impossible to hide. Queen’s Kingdom collapsed. Teachers where perplexed and crossing major lines. A lot of work was being done for her to keep up the curve. This made it hard for us to access what the problem was. Queen appeared to be a very normal girl, but she was not. Her father and I went to endless meetings for years as we were trying to figure out what the heck was happening to her. A psychologist even said “she has some traits that will put her at a disadvantage, but she is not Neuro diverse. She doesn’t need extra help…” When I read those words off the paper I screamed inside. I felt discouraged and desperate.
We finally got a diagnosis and answers to some questions. But only after years of countless endeavors because this girl had mastered her role of the perfect student.
Even after the revelation that she was different and even after seeing clear personality traits that were nothing like mine, I continued to try to push her in the direction I thought she should go. I was hard on her. In my mind she could learn how to be a proper girl. But I was like a hamster on a wheel. Here we are at bedtime all over again! I WANT MY WAY BUT SHE CAN’T COMPLY.
I will never forget the knife-like words my husband spoke to me one day. Queen wasn’t doing anything close to what the average girl her age was doing. I had been throwing lessons at her about how to dress, clean up and organize and it was not happening. Queen was all over the place. I was in the middle of spinning my wheels when my husband made a startling observation. He said, “RIGHT NOW AUTISM IS DOMINATE AND THAT IS WHAT’S RESPONDING TO YOU AND YOU DON’T LIKE THE RESPONSE YOU’RE GETTING. SHE IS DOING HER ABSOLUTE BEST AND IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU.” Ouch!!
From that I realized I had been desperately trying to prepare her to be presented to the world as a normal girl. For shame. I needed her not to show signs of Autism so I would not have to deal with the fall out like awkward, jumbled explanations. When she was a toddler and struggled horribly with bedtime, I tried ridiculously hard to force her to be a normal kid to no avail. She needed me. And here again is the same lesson: “Your way is not the right way. Give her what she needs. LOVE, PATIENCE, AND CREATIVITY.
This was more about me than her. She will be the girl she is going to be, and I will need to happily fill in the gaps. Happily. And filling in the gaps happily is where it’s hard and that is what it’s really about. Filling in the gaps means that I will need to be a strong vigilant mother. It means I need to be bold enough and comfortable enough not to want to explain her behavior or lack of. And on the occasions, that it’s needed I will need to be strong enough and bold enough to correct any person we come across who does not appreciate THE BEAUTY THAT IS QUEEN.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is tough. The responsibility of protecting her from on lookers, students, family, educators who might not get why her behavior doesn’t match her age or misinterpret her verbal and physical cues is enormous.
This means that I must fully embrace what I teach and that is that I AM NOT ASHAMED OR OBSESSED WITH PRESENTING MY LIFE IN ANY PARTICULAR WAY. I do not need to give long explanations about what’s going on with my daughter unless a situation warrants it. But other than that, “The Queen” needs no introduction.