An Open Letter To The Mom Who Hit Her Autistic Son
By FighterMama on September 15, 2012
Originally this was going to be a "comment" but then it was way too long, so I made it a post.
I'm having an issue with this post (and I keep coming back to it when I should just go to bed and leave well enough alone I guess because I don't want to sound like I'm judging you), but I have an issue with it and it's not because you hit your autistic son. I have 2 kids and have absolutely been pushed to my breaking point. I know your pain, I have felt the pressure of wearing the cape of "supermom" and I understand your guilt but I'm kinda left confused a bit.
The way you are raking yourself over the coals here makes it sound like you beat your child or something. Like some real unforgivable shit. I kept waiting to hear what you did exactly to see if all this self-torture was warranted but it just said "hit with open hand and didn't leave a mark." That sounds like a swat on the butt to me. My children are not autistic so I'm not sure if the fact that your child is autistic makes hitting/spanking a taboo in the autism community? Or if you personally are just absolutely against it and never thought you'd hit your child and since you did you are racked with guilt? If it was on his bottom it was a spanking. Even a "firm spank" (not hard like a beating from being in a rage but a spanking) could possibly leave a bit of a red mark for a few seconds, so are you talking about that it didn't leave a permanent mark because it didn't leave a bruise or a big red slap mark? or that you just gave him a "swat" that wouldn't necessarily make a child cry but it will get the point across that you are upset with whatever it is that is going on. Or was it a slap across the face and that is what is eating you up?
Lots of parents spank for different reasons and call it different things. My mom spanked us on way more than one occasion, with a belt on our bare butt even, but we never felt abused or beaten. We knew she loved us. Honestly, what worries me from reading your post more than "I hit my autistic child" is that you said since your child was restrained in his car seat that he was now "safe from you." That came across as chilling to me and a cry for help from you. Intentional or not, I'm not sure but feeling like your child is now "safe from you" because he is restrained and you are in another room with your fingers in your ears to drown out his cries paints a broader picture and is more telling of the dire situation you are in (assuming it's extreme mental overload from trying to be a special needs supermom) than "I hit my son." I'm also not saying that I think that hitting is OK, but I have sympathy as well as empathy for those who have gotten to that breaking point.
So you should ask yourself, if your guilt is coming more from what you think you could be "capable" of doing when you are past your breaking point rather than what actually happened in that particular moment 2 years ago because it's just all gotten too much to bare with 4 kids/2 of which are special needs? I'm not judging you and I can see that you are absolutely overwhelmed. I'm just trying to read what you didn't write...if that makes sense.
I've been the person in my family my whole life who scrubs away all of the candy coating that is applied so that the root is exposed because then and only then is when you can start working on healing and growing. With honesty comes clarity. I actually would have more guilt on restraining my child who is hysterical and then going into a different room from them to cry myself. To me that would be harder for me to get over than a "hit" since I know my daughter would feel trapped if I left her like that and wouldn't know when I'm coming back. My daughter is high needs too. She is a Spirited Child (at times and in different "transitions", can be highly spirited) and from what I've read from the "experts" one should never spank/hit/slap a Spirited Child because it hurts them so deeply, more than just physically, it's like it hurts their soul. But these "experts" are NOT in my house when I have reached such a breaking point to warrant a spanking. But their looming guilt is sure resting on their high horse the second I confess. So is this where all this is coming from with your situation? Is this also how an autistic child might interpret it - feeling hurt to the core and so this is well-known among your peers of other mom's with autistic children? Or is it because they just do not understand why they are getting hit so it doesn't do anything to "teach" as some would believe but it just causes pain, so the fact that you did it makes you feel terrible? Because there has got to be more to this story that is not being said because if it was just an open hand hit that left no mark I'm trying to see why exactly it brought you to such a deep, dark place where you felt you had to leave your hysterical child in a safe place "from you" and where you were crying uncontrollably to the point of shaking and sweating? (Again, I've been there too with sobbing so hard you are sweating and shaking and it takes a great deal to get there as a person unless there already is too much going on inside that anything will make the dam errupt...)
I have spanked my child before. I do not use is as common practice, I try to do other things first (like I'm sure you do), like talking, etc. but I have also spanked and yelled. Loudly. My DD is extremely persistent, determined, argumentative, head strong, extremly savvy, highly intelligent - you name it and day-after-day when I'm also dealing with a busy toddler going through his terrible 2's and I have postpartum depression on top of it (yes, still, from the birth 2 years ago) I reach this point of no patience when it's the 5th tantrum of the day and it's not even 10am yet and I'll find myself in the situation where I'll spank. I'm not happy about it and I apologize to her for it, I explain that it wasn't the right thing for me to do, etc. And I have felt terrible for it, but your reaction worries me. But this is something deeper. Like the cartoon you chose to put up with this article about "the inner demons." That is what needs to be addressed professionally because (and maybe I'm wrong), but I would think that a "hit" how you described it "left no mark" wouldn't bring a mom to her knees if you will and riddled beyond comprehension with guilt and sobs.
I grew up hearing horror stories about my dad getting beaten as a child by his step dad. At 4 he woke up in his bed from getting shoes thrown at him (at his face and head) by his drunk step father who was laughing and thinking it was hilarious. Four years old! At 6 years old he was forced to kneel on his knees on the cold tile floor in the kitchen ALL NIGHT LONG in the dark alone because he didn't eat his peas or something ridiculous. He never ever had a lunch packed for school and as a first grader he stepped in between his mother and step father who was beating her and my father (who was practically still a baby for goodness sake) told him to stop hitting her. That was one of the worst times he had been beaten. He was the oldest of 5 boys and they all have stories like this. Even the ones who are the guy's blood children and not just step children. These are the mild stories.
So this is the unforgivable shit I was talking about. Stuff I assumed you did NOT do, but would nevertheless drive a person to feel the guilt you felt in the bathroom that day.
I think the reson why I keep coming back to this and why I don't just delete it and move on is because I feel as though this is a cry for help. Something is nagging at you and you need help and you either don't know how to ask for it, you don't know where to turn, you don't know who is going to give it to you...something. Only you can answer that. But my husband doesn't tell me on a regular basis, "you can't save the world" for nothing. I try actually, I can't help it. It's in my nature, but I also don't bite my tongue when I should or only tell people what they want to hear either.
I hope that you can figure out what is eating you alive (even though I have a strong feeling you already know what it is) and voice it to the people in your life who love you, who can help you and who you trust to take care of you. No one asks for a special needs child. No one is begging for an even harder situation than it already is to be a brand new mother, so no one should hold it against you when you feel somewhat resentful for the cards you've ben dealt. I ask myself all the time, "why is my daughter a highly spirited child and why do I have to deal with this?" I'm being totally honest here. Then I make myself think of all the wonderful things she brings into my life. And yes, I do have to MAKE myself find the good some days. Most days to be honest. So cut yourself some slack sister. A child who is hitting, spitting, is told is "a danger to others", makes threats on the baby sibling is an extremely difficult situation to be in. You need some extra help with him. This does not mean you are a horrible mom. And the word "supermom" should be wiped off the face of the earth because it only causes damage in my opinion.
Take care of yourself and allow yourself to dig to the root of what is eating you so you can deal with your inner demons.
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