I recently found out that my son will have to undergo surgery on his ears for a fourth time in three years due to recurring ear infections. He’s four years old and has autism, but that’s not the focus of this entry. I was somewhat taken aback by the pediatrician’s remarks when he broke the news to me. He seemed very disappointed that the previous surgeries didn’t remedy the problem and apologized with sincerity and a sympathetic tone. My response was: “It’s ok. There are children in the world that have to go through much worse.” He shrugged and said, “Yeah, but don’t shortchange your suffering.” Those words have been ringing in my ears for the past few days as I evaluate myself and ask: “Am I guilty of shortchanging my suffering?” The answer is yes. I rarely fully acknowledge the challenges of raising an autistic child, caring for a terminally ill parent (my father has cancer), supporting two children in college, and the everyday routines of a functioning household (I am not single).
I don’t complain about my son not reaching his developmental milestones. Even though he is four, his behavior is more of a one year old not interested in potty training nor eating properly. When other parents compliment or complain about their own children, I politely smile, nod, or whatever body language is appropriate for the conversation, but I omit details about rearing my son simply because most people don’t understand the difficulties of autism without experiencing it for themselves. I remain quiet because I do not want to hear suggestions of what I should be doing when I’ve tried it a million times over. Not only that, I have two daughters that are healthy, thriving young adults; therefore, I can say with confidence that I know how to raise children. Autism is much more than parenting skills. It’s about conforming to the uniqueness of the child, which goes against all of the unwritten (and written) old school child rearing rules. I’d rather get advice from autism parents and individuals who have experience in the field. Child rearing is always a powder keg issue, and I prefer not to light the fuse because I have too many other important fires to fight, metaphorically speaking. Therefore, yes. I shortchange my suffering. I also shortchange my suffering because I am a mother that will go to the end of the Earth for her children’s needs. It’s never too much of a hassle for me to make accommodations for my son if it helps him. So, I don’t complain about therapists in our home four days a week because it could be four different other places I’d have to take him instead of them coming to us. I don’t complain about his crying outbursts and meltdowns because I understand it’s his only way to communicate for right now. It’s the only way I know something is wrong with him, otherwise I hardly hear a peep out of him. Screaming and crying usually trigger a reaction of commotion and yelling, but I’ve accepted that I have to be the calm during that storm. I cannot out yell my son to get results (thankfully, because I’m too tired for that anyway). And it’s really difficult at times, especially if I’m not feeling well or during a frustrating situation that he has nothing to do with. I count my blessings, and keep on going.
I am the primary caretaker for my ailing father who suffers from kidney cancer and diabetes complications. He is wheelchair bound and has other limitations that he doesn’t work his way through. I prepare his meals, clean his apartment, laundry, and used to accompany him to doctors appointments (until recent months). He calls me when he needs anything. It’s tough being the go-to-person for another. With limited mobility and failing eye sight, my father is totally dependent. Are there other family members that can help? Yes. Do they pitch in? Hell no, but I am okay with that. I’m a firm believer in the old adage “too many cooks spoil the soup”. So, it’s best they stay out of the way and I care for him because I’m not above bowing out gracefully if a family member thinks they can take over. I’m the eldest child, next of kin, emergency contact and medical power of attorney for him. I handle his personal business matters. Realistically, I didn’t leave any room for anyone else to step in; therefore, I shortchange my suffering by not asking nor expecting any help. A majority of our closest kin live across the country from us. I do not want to add to their burdens, so I bear mine in silence instead of complaining out loud. I count my blessings, and keep on going.
My biggest inspiration to never give in comes from my two daughters who are both in college, living on their respective college campuses. They both are employed and full time students. Their lives are what I am most proud of. Honestly, I am living vicariously through them because they are behaving maturely and making responsible decisions. They are having experiences that I used to dream of, dreams that became deferred by reality and my poor choices when I was their age. I provide peripheral support to them when it comes to transportation needs, advice and hours of complicated hairstyling (which I need to catch up on). I’ve always told them the best help they can be to me is to take excellent care of themselves. It’ll be less for me to worry about. They are doing just that, and I love them immensely for it. I count my blessings, and keep on going.
I thought working for 9-1-1 would be the toughest and least appreciated job I would ever have. Boy, I was very wrong. Stay at home parents truly do not get the respect and recognition they deserve. There have been plenty of days when I thought to myself, “What was I thinking? I was getting cussed out several times a day by absolute strangers over the phone, but at least I made good money for it.” I don’t get cussed out at home; however, someone bringing dirty dishes to the sink after I just finished cleaning the kitchen gets me just as pissed off. The first seventeen adult years of my life was raising two girls. Now, I live with two guys: my son and his daddy. I don’t have enough OCD in me to constantly clean behind them. I wish I could attach laundry baskets to their chests and Swiffer mops on their feet, but the house would still be dirty some kind of way. I am a terrible housekeeper. I’ve tried getting myself fired by my significant other to no avail. So, I shortchange my suffering by looking around at the mess and talk myself into being grateful for not having as much as others, but still more than many. To have dirty clothes overflowing in the basket onto the floors, yet still have clean clothing hanging in the closets and folded in the dressers is a blessing. Dirty dishes mean we’ve been eating. But, there’s no excuse for scattered papers and shoes, etc. That’s just lazy. I count my blessings and keep on going.
I’m counting my blessings, yet shortchanging my suffering. I don’t think of it as cheating myself though because I have a Savior that’s looking upon me, and keeping account of all that I do and don’t do. I have trust and faith in Jesus Christ. He always rewards by providing my needs through the kindness and consideration of others. He keeps His promises. In spite of the duties I listed, the Lord has sent people to my path to enrich my writing career, which I thought would be endangered due to the home workload. I’m receiving more and more compliments for my books and poetry. Aspiring authors request my input for their writing projects and I edit business letters and papers. I am excited for the future because these experiences are giving me great writing material. I shortchange my suffering, but not without counting my blessings so I can keep on going.
If you like my blog, you’ll love my fictional novels “18 Years of Grace and Mercy: A Teenage Mother’s Testimony, Vol. 1” and “The Pusher, the Prostitute and a Preacher” available for purchase online in soft cover and eBook. http://www.TamikaTrammel.com, Amazon, B&N.com, Google Books, http://www.AmericaStarBooks.com or place an order at any retail bookstore. 5 Star rated books. To potential publishers, please know that I am a committed author with the passion to tell fictional stories created to inspire and uplift readers. Check me out!