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Identity Crisis

Here’s a serious throwback for you all– taken with my phone from my yearbooks 8th grade through senior year–such a baby face.
Apparently, I only wore polos, was particular about my bangs, and went a little crazy with the eyebrow plucking.

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I don’t ever remember having big dreams for myself when I was a kid. I’m sure I had delusions of being a vet or something just because I liked our family dog, but as I became a preteen and teen I put myself on the fast track to mediocrity.  Don’t get me wrong, I got straight A’s and scholarships, but I was so afraid of failure that I remember thinking early on that I would set my career expectations low so that I could be an over-achiever.

Sad.

I always had an interest in video. I mean, when I turned 16 and got my first job all the money I made went toward buying my very own video camera instead of my very own car.  I remember hanging out at the library(circa 1994 pre-internet in Vernal) and trying to read up on jobs that I could do in the film industry.  I would read the credits of movies and try to figure out what all those jobs were, and trust me, there were pretty much no books about that in the tiny county library! When I finally made it to college I was so incredibly intimidated by the world that I just started doing what came easy instead of what I loved and eventually ended up with a high school teaching degree. Ha! I have yet to set foot in a high school to teach aside for my student teaching.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, I didn’t know who I wanted to be. I needed the feedback and praise of others to define me and that’s why I did what was expected or what came easy.  Once I had children, I was by default, defined as mother.  Ironically, my children don’t even call me mom, so that feedback that I had constantly relied on would take on a very non-traditional(and at times, non-existent) form.

I see people out in the world who are defined by their trials. Whatever thing they are fighting in their life seems to define who they are as a person whether it be their sexual orientation, race, political agenda, their job, their weight, illness, financial situation, etc.  I’m sure we can all list people we know and instead of naming them we say, “the gay guy, the black lady, the old democrat, the fat chick, the poor man with cancer, the wealthy guy…”. For some reason, we like to catagorize each other and ourselves. Perhaps it’s derogatory, or maybe as I have been learning about the brain it is just a natural tendency of the left brain to look for patterns and group things together.(i.e. the natural man)ic_0026

So it made me wonder how people speak of me and how do I think of myself?

Am I known as “the mom of two kids with autism”?

Now there are many schools of thought about the nature of Autism. Is it a disability? Is it just a different way of being? Can it or is it something to be cured?  I don’t know the answers to these questions, but what I do know is that what I am experiencing right now, as far as I’m concerned, is a trial.  Perhaps my children do have special abilities and ways of communicating that are not of this world, but for now they need to learn to survive in this world and unfortunately for them–and now 1 out of every 88 children born–we live in a talking, socializing world.  When my 4-year-old son hurts himself he runs to me crying. Like any mom, I automatically ask him questions, “are you okay? what happened?” I see clearly the pain in his eyes and how badly he wants to tell my what happened, but he has no words.  I see him looking at me sometimes when I ask him questions. He only echos the questions, but his gaze is so intense that I know he is trying to communicate something to me, but for some reason his brain won’t allow him any form of deliberate communication(signs, gestures, words of his own)ic_0029

Dempsey is even worse.

She understands maybe 10-20% of the words I am saying to her and speaks none.  She has no boundaries. Any food, toys, objects she sees are just an extension of herself and she feels every right to have them.  If I say no, immediate meltdown. In many ways, it is like having a 9-month-old in a 3-year-old bodyic_0025

Many times, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful to my children, but my husband and I have both said it, speaking to them is like trying to teach a dog to speak and understand English. The brain cannot be forced to learn something that it is not developmentally capable of…not to say they will never be capable, but if this is not a trial I certainly don’t know what is.ic_0027

All that being said, I don’t know if I want to be defined by my “trial”. There is a whole community out there of parents who are proud, who dive in and research, and go to all the conventions, and wear blue, have fundraisers, speak out about Autism every chance they get.  I get it. I know that there wouldn’t be as much awareness, information, and resources out there for me on my journey if it weren’t for those over-zealous parents, educators, and doctors.  God bless them for dedicating their lives and wanting to redefine how people view autism.

I guess that I get to decide how I want to be defined. My friend Mindy, always reminds me there is a season for everything. Perhaps some will always define me as “the mom of two kids with autism”, but even though I want to put my story out there and help those around me understand, I hope there are days ahead that I won’t be defined by my children, because I am also:

Joie, Adam’s wife
Joie, who likes photos/videos
Joie, who is sometimes a health nut
Joie, who is kinda funny
Joie, who likes to read/write
Joie, who knows Spanish
Joie, with a testimony of Christ

feel free to add more to my list–wink wink.:)

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