Where is the line?

July 14, 2010 at 6:01 am 12 comments

     I’m not sure why, but I am fascinated with the show “Intervention.” Truth be told, drugs and alcohol frighten me to a degree such that I’ve never indulged in the former in any way (I might be the only living person over 20 who has never smoked pot), and rarely indulge in the latter. So I’m not really sure why the show speaks to me like it does. It is what it is.

     Yet something one of the intervention therapists said on a recent show really struck home for me. He was talking about co-dependency, which is a term I hadn’t heard since college, when a friend bought the book Co-Dependent No More and had us all read it. It was probably my first exposure to self-help books, and to this day I chuckle when I remember how each of us (myself included) in our circle felt the book was written for her, about her.

     Basically, what I realized – after hearing the therapist talk about how a co-dependent person’s good days and bad days are based on someone else’s good and bad days –  is that I am way too wrapped up in C. My mood is almost completely dependent on his. If he is cranky, I am worried. If he is sick, I am a wreck. If he is happy, I am too.

     This is not good.

     I work, with the full support and encouragement of Husband, from home. Part time. While C is at school. I drop him off and pick him up every day. It’s not because I desperately want to do this, although I do enjoy it. Seeing C’s little face light up when he sees me and watching him run toward me with gleeful abandon makes my whole day. Still, I’m not one of the Moms who live and breathe their children and have yearned for the parenting job from the time they were mothering their dollies at four years old (you know, the Moms that have personalized license plates that read “SCCRMOM” or “MOMOF4”). It’s more because we feel it’s what C needs from me. It’s what we chose. It’s what I do. I don’t know any other way, and apparently it has consumed me whole.

     So where do I go from here? Frankly, I’m not really sure. I have carved out things for myself; I read, I write, and I watch “Intervention,” among other things. Yet it’s not enough. I need some emotional distance, which is something I’m not really sure how to go about securing. All the kids already call me “C’s Mom,” because of course that’s all I am to them. I have a feeling that I’d better figure it out quickly, before that’s all I become to myself as well.

Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Oy vey We wait

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pixiemama  |  July 14, 2010 at 6:56 am

    I don’t know of a way that parents who are actively involved in their children’s lives CAN’T be co-dependent. I think that’s even true of my typical children. The parent/child, especially the mother/child, relationship is naturally co-dependent. I think it also naturally becomes less so as our children become more independent. Yes, our children with special needs will take longer getting there, and of course it’s overwhelming and all encompassing, but I really don’t see where that can change.


  • 2. Christiane Williams  |  July 14, 2010 at 7:10 am

    There are certainly days were I would LOVE to get off the ASD roller-coaster that I am riding with my son, however I am not sure I could bear standing by the side and watch.

  • 3. Cheryl D.  |  July 14, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I can so relate to this post! Although I haven’t been able to find a part-time job. In my previous life, I was a Senior Analyst for the GAO (Congress’ watchdog arm). I talked to other adults on topical policy issues. I tried to make a difference in the world. Now, my daughter with Asperger’s is my world. I’m totally codependent on her! It’s really hard not to be though. If you find an answer, let me know!

  • 4. T$  |  July 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I think you are able to “forget” about C much better than you think, or at least you’re good at faking it. Many parents I observe, even some with “normal” kids, are much less able to separate themselves than you seem to be. You have a heightened level of concern because of his needs, but that’s understandable. Give yourself a break.

  • 5. therocchronicles  |  July 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Seriously, you must live inside my head. I was running this morning and thinking about this exact same thing. The Roc had a rough morning, as most mornings lately have been, and I was thinking about the deep line that was between my eyebrows and how it’s always there lately. How my mind is so swirled up with this child, even when he’s gone for almost 6 hours. It’s that “lost” feeling. Who am I? Where did the me I used to know GO? I feel that she’s still in there somewhere, but she is so fundamentally changed…and I don’t know what to do with that.

    So yeah, I get what you’re saying!

  • 6. fiona2107  |  July 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I think when you have an ASD child, it just comes naturally to be that way.
    It’s really hard to separate “co-dependant” from “caring and involved”.
    I also wonder if it’s all part and parcel of being given a special needs child.
    But I totally understand where you are coming from. It’s the same in this house.
    And I’ve been called a “smother mother” too many times myself!

  • 7. abbyschrad  |  July 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    You hit the nail on the head with this post.

    By August 1st, I need to write a quadrennial review statement to justify my existence as a professor (and my nearly non existent raises). In my head, I keep going over my opening lines which go something like “My research and writing agenda, alas, have had to take a backseat to boning up on developmental pediatrics, which has replaced Russian history as my specialty, in the years following my daughter’s diagnosis with High Functioning Autism. Moreover, keeping her out of danger and away from the precipice of meltdowns and shutdowns has entailed jettisoning any attempts I have made toward publishing during my College-sponsored leave of absence.” I wouldn’t trade parenting Hallie and Lea for the world, and what I am doing is worth so much more than any article I might publish (that might have a readership of 12 and about zero impact on anyone’s life), but still, this is not exactly how I charted things. Even if I am co-dependent in all sorts of other ways!

  • 8. Shivon  |  July 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    You are in my head…Thank you for sharing this, it makes me feel like im not alone.

  • 9. kaztronomic  |  July 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    I never really thought about co-dependence, but by the way you describe it, I guess I am, too. If others around me aren’t happy, then I’m not happy. I pick up on their morose vibe and feel, to a certain degree, responsibility for their moods. The same goes with good cheer; if somebody is manic, I become super-hyper with them.

    I can see your desire to create that emotional distance, since it must be exhausting to allow his moods to dictate yours. I wish you the best of luck, and I have confidence that you’ll be able to find your own separate identity and allow for it to flourish. ❤

  • 10. akbutler  |  July 16, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I totally get this post. Maybe it’s my way of rationalizing things, but I think when you’re a parent of a kid with special needs there’s a difference between being “co-dependent” and being “an engaged parent”. I see co-dependent as a negative for both sides, where one party contributes to the other’s downfall (for example, with addiction a mother giving her older child money knowing that he will just use it to feed the addiction). But for our kiddos, I think, you need to be there for them because in many cases you are the one stable comfortable thing in their lives. Little kids by nature have to be dependent on their parents.
    I don’t know you personally, but from reading your posts it doesn’t sound like you have a co-dependent relationship. It’s sounds like you have a loving, caring relationship with an amazing little guy. And as he gets older and can do more for himself, I’m guessing that you too will be able to do the same. 🙂

  • 11. tiredmama  |  July 19, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Wow. This post spoke for me. I am also known as “C’s Mom.” I don’t mind, but I do feel that I need to be something beyond that, too. If you figure out how to make that happen, please share with me! 😉

  • 12. robinaltman  |  July 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    You are so incredibly smart and talented that you could do just about anything. I vote “write a book” and use that amazing talent, but that’s just one of the cool things I imagine you doing.

    I really don’t think you’re codependent on C. I agree with akbutler, that codependency is more of a negative term where people’s pathologies are stroked and nurtured by their partner, so that healing never takes place. Doesn’t our loved one’s mood affect all of us? I know that a cranky mood from me can destroy the whole family’s day. And if one of the boys is having a crisis, I’m done in until it’s over. You’re immersed in C because he’s vulnerable and needs a lot of care right now, but you’re not dependent on that position, and it doesn’t define you (except with a bunch of 7 year olds, perhaps).


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