Today would have been my mother’s 96th birthday, the first one she didn’t live to see. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Even if we had been close, she was to all intents and purposes already dead for years. She wouldn’t have recognized me, let alone her birthday. This is why merely existing and being kept technically alive is the tragedy, and the part of dying that scares me the most.
Still, I thought I should at least pause to pay some respect. I was a very difficult kid, coming of age in the 60s and 70s. I watch my grandkids’ meltdowns and frequent emotional crises, and imagine how unsettling and shocking my behavior and attitudes must have been to parents from the school of children must be utterly subservient and unquestioning and disciplined. It must have been traumatic and bewildering.
Witnessing my son going through that times 400%, with almost no help or recourse, even all the neural/behavioral information we have available now is not enough to cope with the overwhelming pressure and stress on a single parent trying to work and manage ND kids. Neither are the schools equipped to handle it all. Were times simpler back in my parents’ day? I suspect not, but kids were just pressured to fit into the expected role, or be shuffled into “special” ed or shop, or just be lost in a crack of the system.
So I must give credit where it’s due—to all parents struggling to keep from drowning in a system that isn’t designed to support them or their kids. I can start to see my mother’s side of things, dealing with a miserable kid like me, with no recourse but to condemn me to fatherly abuse when he got home. They didn’t know about neurodivergence or developmental issues; they just blamed the bratty kids and used threats and fear to control us. It was them against us.
My son has the advantage of knowledge and education, which his kids benefit from, yet it’s still too much for one overworked person to deal with. He feels like he’s always losing ground and failing; how else would you feel when the system is stacked against you? He’s doing all the right things: he’s a brilliant, hard worker, a responsible, loving parent, a gracious, generous human, and a son to be proud of. It’s too much, and yet never enough.
So, my mother. I haven’t been the greatest of mothers, so I can’t turn around and fault her for trying. She was from a different time and universe. She did all the things you were supposed to do. She provided us with a home and opportunities, whether we appreciated it or not. Though I drove her to distraction, she continued to love me and especially my son. Though she’d be baffled by the complexities of his life now, she’d be extremely proud of him, that much I know.