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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mothers in Wonderland

I recently encountered the classic story of Alice in Wonderland. I had never seen or read it before. It struck me that this life is all a Wonderland. We each have our own dream we are trying to wake up from, our own Jabberwock to slay, our own times of feeling larger than life, and our own moments of feeling tiny and insignificant. Mothers of children with disabilities fall through the rabbit hole and find ourselves in a strange land where the learning curve is very steep. What potion must we drink to fit through this tiny door to get services for our kids? What cake should we eat so we can grow large and grab that key to open the door?
We must learn quickly in order to help our children. Each of us is running from our own Bandersnatch – our own unique inner struggles. Our children with disabilities have a brilliant way of bringing them to the surface, don’t they? 

Some mothers encounter the White Rabbit luring us to the rabbit hole by our natural desire to become a mother. Others are lured by the desire to help a child in need; a child they fall in love with and want to bring into their family, knowing full well the challenges and joys that are ahead. No matter how we came here, we have fallen, head over heels, into this Wonderland of strange, scary, exhilarating experiences. Our children with special needs force us to grow. Whether we grow kicking and screaming through life or smoothly and easily, we mature into the people we are supposed to become. 

Along Alice’s journey, she keeps repeating to herself that all she has to do is pinch herself and she can wake up to end the dream and the fear. That is what we all must do. Wake up from the dream, become aware of all the fearful parts of our ego in order to end the fear. That is what our children can help us do. They challenge us with every fear we have and some we never knew we had. They make our fears appear larger than a Jabberwock by making us confront issues and people. Our love for our children is the Vorpal Sword we use to slay those fears. The desire to help them succeed is the cake that grows us larger than life so we can do what needs to be done for them, whether it's standing up for their rights, or fighting for treatments they need. The potion we drink to get small enough to watch and listen for what they need is our natural motherly instinct. We have to learn by trial and error to trust this instinct, even when the Dormouse is telling us we are not the one who can do this; that other moms have it all under control and that we are a mess. 

The Red Queens in our dream want control and power. They may appear as our spouse, our parent, our sibling, or our friend. They will push us in this direction and pull us in that direction, trying to make us do what they think is right for our kids. The Bandersnatch chases us toward the Red Queen with our inner doubts and fears. Sometimes we want to hand it over to someone else, to let someone else take responsibility for our children’s future. Eventually, we discover that to tame this Bandersnatch, we must be kind and compassionate with ourselves and with those who try to guide us with their own fears. Alice dreamed this same dream over and over throughout her life. We must also. In her journey through Wonderland at age nineteen, she sees the Oraculum, a prophetic scroll, which shows her slaying the Jabberwock as a child. Through our lives, fears must be overcome, doubts about ourselves in new roles must be overcome, and these Jabberwocks must be slain again and again.

As we grow with our children through these new experiences, we gain the wisdom we need to react like the Cheshire Cat, grinning from ear to ear when the Tweedledees and Tweedledums of this world say inappropriate things about our kids. And poof! We evaporate from the lives of people who refuse to understand and accept our children the way they are. Our Wonderland is filled with a group of people, some family, some professionals – teachers, therapists, and doctors – who become our Mad Hatters; imparting knowledge, support, and encouragement when we need it most. These people are crazy enough to believe our kids can reach higher and go farther in life. They help us believe it, too. I was most fortunate to have a Bayard the Bloodhound in my life; my son’s middle school teacher, who worked with me from inside the Red Queen’s army to help me prepare for battle with knowledge the Queen did not want me to have. I am forever grateful for her. 

Sometimes professionals, family members, or friends appear in our lives as the Dormouse making us feel unimportant or wrong. Fortunately, peppered throughout our dream, the wise caterpillar, Absolem, appears. Absolem challenges us to discover who we are until we recognize, finally, that we are the ultimate authority of our own children – strong, brave, fearless mothers who will fight for our kids with every fiber of our being. And, if we persevere, we win. Our children win because we are their mothers. Pat yourself on the back, Brave Woman! For you have made it this far through Wonderland. Keep going. Eventually, you will slay the Jabberwock by realizing you have awakened within the dream; that inside you lives all the characters present in Alice in Wonderland; that you already have the Vorpal Sword. All you have to do is hold on. 

Happy Mother's Day

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