Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Love, not fear: Expanding Awareness, Embracing Beauty

This headline appeared in my Facebook feed one day. Landon Bryce, an autistic adult, opened his post with these words: This does not mean that if you hate autism, you do not also love autistic people. But you hate part of them.

On my Blessed by (Autism) Uniquely Magnificent Children Facebook page, I asked parents to comment on the above statement. They replied:

I hate autism and how my son is disabled and with low intelligence. I love my son. (Jo)

I don’t like autism but I love my daughter for who she is. (Annette)

On the surface, it seems that it is possible to hate autism while loving autistic individuals. When we dig deeper, we begin to sense the truth of Landon’s assertion.

I Hate that You Hit Your Sister, But I Love that You’re Impulsive

If my child were not impulsive, she would control her urge to hit. If she did not hit, her gentle parents would not (ahem) lose control and scream as if possessedIf she could be a little more thoughtfulwe could have a more pleasant, more normal life. (Why yes, perceptive reader, impulsivity does reside in our house.)

Enter Wabi Sabi Love

Listening to a New Consciousness Review podcast with Arielle Ford, I heard about Wabi Sabi LoveArielle, self-described Fairy Godmother of Love, introduced the concept this way:

Wabi Sabi is an ancient Japanese aesthetic that honors all things, old, worn, weathered, imperfect, and impermanent.  So if you had a large vase with a crack in it, the Japanese would put it on a pedestal and shine a light on the crack.

Wikipedia says:

[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.[3]

700 years ago, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi sabi is often condensed to ″wisdom in natural simplicity.″ In art books, it is typically defined as ″flawed beauty.″ [4]

Wabi Sabi for Everybody

Here’s the thing: 

We are all flawed, and we are all stunningly beautiful.  Everything is In Creation, a work in progress. All is perfect, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Arielle encourages us to tell a new story about the characteristics or traits that we perceive as flaws. A non-implusive Ellana would mean no joyful, exuberant, and very loud outbursts of singing, no wild swinging, no boisterous play with her brothers. A non-impulsive Jonathon would mean no running leaps into my arms, no tumbling on the bed, no shooting sounds during play.

Non-impulsive, my children would be calmer and quieter, but they would not be themselves.  And I like them exactly the way they are.

For Valentine’s Day, Arielle Ford created the Wabi Sabi Amnesty Vow. Check it out and consider writing a Wabi Sabi promise to your children. Consider writing one for your partner. Or for yourself.

Here’s my adaptation of Arielle’s Amnesty Vow:

Love by Pastel Punk on Deviant Art

Dear (Child),

I love you. You have been bringing me joy from the moment you were born. I appreciate every day that we are together. Often, I’m not good at showing it.

As you know, (oh, how you know!), for the past (16) years I have been criticizing you for (being disorganized, loud, and unaware). I have recently learned about a concept called Wabi Sabi Love.  It’s all about learning to find beauty and perfection in people, situations, and things exactly the way they are.

I now make a  Wabi Sabi Vow to you. Starting now, I am telling a new story.  I will do my best to find the beauty and perfection in your unique way of being and doing things, especially those that have bothered me in the past.

Please forgive me for all of the times I yelled at and misunderstood you. Thank you for being you and for all that you do.

Love, Mama

P.S. I will need to practice this Wabi Sabi thing.  When I begin to slip up, I give you permission to put me back on track by saying “Where’s the Wabi Sabi Love?”

Adapted from Arielle Ford at www.wabisabilove.com

Written for 

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Work in Progress

Thirteen years ago, my mother-hero’s journey began. My almost-three-year old’s teacher stopped me at the door. “We’d like to have someone from special ed come in and observe Ellana. She’s not like the other children.” My heart raced. My world whirled. Hours passed and I began to assemble the teacher’s words into meaning. She thought something was wrong with Ellana. I wept. I raged. I decided that Mrs. Francis was wrong. I refused the call to adventure. I rejected the labels the teacher and observer wanted to associate with my beautiful, brilliant girl.

Twelve years ago, I acknowledged that my child was very different from the other preschoolers and accepted the challenge to be the kind of parent (I thought) she needed. I decided to overcome the autism spectrumy thing. I donned my battle gear. I read, researched, and planned. I drove my daughter to therapy appointments and sampled treatments and therapies of many flavors. I had a goal. I would help her to modulate odd behaviors and acclimate to the ordinary world. I would fix the glitches in her system. I would make my child normal.

Eleven years ago, when my second child was two, he was evaluated and given an autism diagnosis. While Ellana’s way of being defied labeling, Daniel had never spoken a word. He pressed the buttons on his toys repeatedly. He flicked his hands in front of his face. He was happy, affectionate, intelligent, and obviously autistic.

Nine years ago, my first grader was in her fifth school in five years, and we were asked to withdraw midyear.  I plunged into the abyss. Amidst deep, dark despair, I experienced moment of insight: I would teach my daughter at home.

After five years of homeschooling, after much yelling, crying, and foot stomping from mother and child, revelation dawned: I did not need to fix my daughter or her brothers. They were not, and never had been, broken. None of them resembled the children I had envisioned, but they were perfectly themselves, and I loved them, no changing required.

Four years ago, my three children went to school. For the first time in eleven years, I was home alone during the day, so I decided to write a book. I interviewed mothers of autistic children and wrote about the transformative power of our parenting journeys. I was healed and enlightened. I recognized my children’s inherent awesomeness. Life was easy and good. And we lived happily ever after.

~ The End ~

Cue the laugh track. While the above is an accurate, though drastically abbreviated, telling of my parenting experience (the whole is here), and though I did feel as if my mother-hero’s journey had come to a natural conclusion, I relaxed on my (virtual) lounge chair on the beach, margarita in hand, rather briefly. The end was not The End, but a curve in the spiral of life, circling into another loop of The Journey. I had arrived . . . somewhere, yet felt more unmoored than ever.

 

Mother,
      a small BIG word, 
       gave my life purpose and meaning.

It was I,
         who knew what my children required.
It was I,
         who fed and healed.
It was I,
         who soothed and strengthened.

I was
     needed,
     heeded,
     indispensable.

Until I was not,
             not needed to fix, for they were not broken,
             not heeded, for they invoked their own wisdom,
             not indispensable, for they were competent and complete.

Mother,
      a BIG small role,
      forged the woman I am today.

It is I,
       who practice non-interference.
It is I,
       who aim to advise less and listen more.
It is I,
       who teach and support.

I was
     heated,
      hammered,
        beaten into shape.

Until I became,
               cool and unrestricted, flowing like water,
               expansive and pliable, open to constant change,
               sovereign and free.

Thirteen years into the journey, I am trying to not try to figure out a new purpose for being, striving to adjust to the flow of life’s currents, and learning to thrive in this uncertain space. I do not remember what I know every day. I relearn lessons I previously mastered. I slip, stumble, and fall. I notice twists, hills, and valleys on own journey honor the journeys of those around me.

I know that in every moment, we are all flawed, and we are all stunningly beautiful. All is perfect, even when it does not seem that way. Everything is in creation. I am a work in progress.

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