By Dan Coulter
We all want to make a difference. We all crave feedback.
As Mothers’ Day gets closer, I’m thinking about moms of kids with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders who give a lot, but don’t always get a lot of feedback from their kids. The way their kids’ brains are wired sometimes makes it hard for them to express appreciation -- or let mom know how much impact she’s having.
But so many mothers keep up the support, constantly working with their kids to help them overcome their frustrations and make the most of their strengths. Some of these moms see breakthroughs in younger children. Some watch for years for confirmation that they’re doing the right things and making a difference in their kids’ lives. This applies to dads too. We’ll talk about dads closer to Fathers’ Day, but today’s article is for moms.
Sometimes mothering is a shifting balance between joy and worry. If you’re feeling like, “I’ve had my allotment of worry and would like a generous helping of joy, thank you very much,” I’d like to share a moment my wife, Julie, had with our son some years ago. Drew, who has Asperger Syndrome, has given his mom and me a lot of joy over the years. But this was a first.
Julie was on the phone with Drew, who was away at college. After they hung up, she turned to me and said, “Wow. For the first time in 21 years, Drew told me he loved me without me saying it first.”
This made me think about the young man Drew had become and all the positive things about him that had been influenced by his mom. A song Bette Midler sang called, “My Mother’s Eyes,” came to mind. The song was written by Tom Jans and it captures something about the lifelong bond between a mother and child. Jans writes about how he “got my mother’s eyes” and about how the way he looks at the world was shaped by his mom.
Part of the song goes, “Well I keep walking with my head held high, with my head to the sky, with my mother’s eyes.”
Moms can give us our confidence and our conscience. My mom and dad were shaped the Great Depression and World War II. They always put their kids’ needs first. At one time, my dad worked at three jobs (one full-time and two part-time) to provide for us. My mom was always there to make us feel safe and warm. She could tell great stories and defuse her kids’ arguments with her sense of humor. Later in life, she did an amazing job of taking care of my dad before he passed away.
I still see right and wrong through the things she taught us kids and the example she set. I know I didn’t express anywhere near enough appreciation while I was growing up. But I always felt special when Mom showed she was proud of me. (And Mom, because I know you’ll read this, I still care about making you proud.)
Jans’ song continues, “Have I seen all that I could? Have I seen more than I should? With my mother’s eyes?”
Your kids may not always let you know how much progress you’re making, molding them into the best people they can be. They may not know themselves. But everything you do is helping to shape them and their values and give them at least some of the keys you've found to unlock a complicated world.
Whether or not you get direct feedback, I’m betting as you watch them grow, you’ll see how much farther they go than they could have gone without you. And, as Julie and I learned, you never know when you’ll get a burst of feedback about how much your guidance mattered. Is it possible to overestimate the influence a mother can have?
I know it would be hard to find a better measure for my most important decisions than how they’d look in my mother’s eyes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of the videos, "Managing Puberty, Social Challenges and (Almost) Everything): A Video Guide for Girls" and "The Puberty Video for Boys with Asperger Syndrome." You can find more articles on his website at: coultervideo.com.
Copyright Dan Coulter 2005 (Revised 2014) Used by Permission All Rights Reserved