Friday, July 11, 2008

Autism, Clay, and a Crap-Load of Metaphor on Parenting

I've noticed a lot of bloggers lately have been writing odes to their children as it seems that many of them have summer birthdays. Their words have been very sweet and have really spoken to me. In a world in which so many children are unwanted, abused and neglected it's always nice to see that there are many that are not only loved, but genuinely cherished. But I have to be honest....reading such pieces is always a little bittersweet for me. I can't help but notice and think about what they have and what I don't. I try not to dwell too much on what my child can't do and what his autism takes from him, but sometimes to avoid those things is to live in true denial. I have been in the position many times to speak to parents of children recently diagnosed with autism. I have also been in the position to offer support and counsel to parents who have coped with the disorder for some time. I am really in no way qualified to do either, but something about my listening skills and a background in the human services has lead me to these jobs. In those situations, many a person has heard me use the old "children are like clay" story. Go with me here.... When a new baby is born, he is a lump of clean and perfect, unused clay. As the potter or parent, you can turn that lovely clay into whatever you so choose. It could become something as lovely as a glazed vase or something as dirty and unremarkable as an ash tray. As parent/potter YOU will choose how to fashion this priceless clay. When you have a child with a disability, you also get clay. It often even looks as good as "typical" or "normal" clay. But when you start shaping it, you realize as its parent/potter that it's not so easy to spin. It requires much more work and a much more delicate hand. You will become frustrated with the clay and sometimes even get mad that you can't work it as well as the other potters. You will even wonder sometimes if your clay can be fashioned into a vase or an ash tray or will simply remain.....clay. You will walk out of your studio and see the other potters. They are all either thrilled with or disappointed by their really all depends on the day. Sometimes they will get mad at their clay when it's really them that aren't treating it and spinning it right. And sometimes they will get annoyed when their clay does something really silly like falling off the wheel. They'll berate the clay and make a huge deal out of a simple accident that can be easily remedied. And what of us potters of the "other" clay? The clay that won't spin? Won't seal? Won't slip? Has dents, pocks, discoloration, pockets, etc? What do we do with our non-performing clay? Well, we'll get mad at it. Cry over it. Keep spinning it. Keep telling it we know it can. Lose patience with it. Let another more experienced potter give it a try. Cry again. Have I beaten this clay metaphor to death? I used to like to spin.....sue me. My dedicated readers know that I don't talk a lot about Little Boy's autism. And I also don't try to use this blog for complaining, ranting or bellyaching. But I just had to use this chance to say something to all of you "normal" potters out there: take this clay you were given, and dammit, spin it right! You will never know how blessed/lucky/fortunate you were to have been given it. And when you see us other potters out there.....the ones with the "challenged" clay. Don't give us your sympathy. And don't give us your criticisms of advice. Just look at us and know that we're potters too. And like you, we're just trying to make a masterpiece. I am The Chick.....I'm a SAHM living Down South where I write about my life.....marriage, friends, music, activism, fads, oh.....and the life of a mom with a 6 year-old boy with autism. Stop by my farm for more!


  1. Sh*tballs, THAT ROCKED.

    My dad is a retired engineer. He is a potter now! He has his own wheel and kiln. He doesn't understand his grandson but desperately tries. He watched Autism the Musical in June and has a much better idea. He cries his grandfather tears behind closed doors so I won't see them and it won't add to my tears.

    I am going to print this and send it to him because you my friend just hit the nail on the head and spoke his language.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  2. Wow! I'm so glad it spoke to you, Becky! Every now and then, we all just have to find SOME way to make ourselves and our kids be heard, huh?

    Plus, it comes from my own failed attempt at Not so good at it...

  3. That's great, I especially like the last paragraph.

    That's funny though, b/c I haven't seen any others lately but I wrote a letter to my twins on my blog last month for their birthday. It was short, didn't mention autism or anything, just basically about how I am proud of them and grateful to be their mom. I wasn't blogging yet on little man's birthday but will probably write one for him next year too :).

  4. Chick,
    Thanks. I like my pieces of clay. They make me laugh. All of us potters have been given a great gift.

    I think I am going to go hug my clay now.


  5. I am thrilled that you all are connecting. THIS is what I was envisioning for this space.


  6. Crikey, I hit enter too soon. I had more to say!

    I am enjoying reading everyone's posts. I've never spun clay but sure appreciated that 'clay' scene in Ghost ;).

    It isn't always easy to express feelings as a parent (or have the forum to do so) about the struggles of raising a child.

    I've had my own sense of 'loss' with my son -- I did struggle with what I thought he should be ... and holding him to the yardstick before I finally crossed over and just said okay I get it now. You are you - and you're going to set the pace and I'm really, totally okay with that.

    What I think 'sucks' about autism - is the isolation when parenting. The disconnect of being able to boast/vent/share with other parents who know where you're coming from. I think it's because of posts like yours, and forums like this and parents across the web connecting that the isolation is becoming less and less.

    I think if I'd been more connected sooner my son would have had an earlier dx, more support sooner and I'd had a much easier time setting down that yardstick and getting on with our lives at our own pace.

    Anyhow - big ramble. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing so openly your feelings and experiences.

  7. For me, it's forums just like this that keep me sane and alleviate a lot of the isolation as well. So thanks to all of you, ladies! I think we're all doing our small parts in the greater struggle....


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