My Life as a Sweater

Sweater unravelingLast week I had one of those days where I felt like a failure. I was exhausted and depressed and totally overwhelmed. The day started out pretty well. Then around mid-morning a friend said that she didn’t know how I managed as a single parent. (Here’s a news flash: some days I don’t either.) She said she thought if she were me, she would have been tempted to give Katie back to the birthparents. A few minutes later, after further discussion, she took her statement back, but the damage was done.

Later, while repairing a loose button, I found not one but six ragged moth holes in one of my favorite sweaters. Katie was downstairs, crying because she was tired after a long day at school and didn’t want to do her afternoon “play” therapy. I sat on my bed and I cried too.

This is not, of course, the first time someone has told me that I should have given Katie back. The first person to do so was my ex-husband Michael shortly before I filed for divorce. In his defense, he was drunk and severely manic at the time. We were both reeling from Katie’s autism diagnosis. Still, I would have preferred a very different response from the man I thought would be her father. It felt like the worst form of betrayal. But given Michael’s dysfunctional childhood, the answer did not come as a complete shock. It was painful and heart-breaking, but upon further reflection (and a lot of therapy), not a surprise

What has been a surprise is the number of people since then who have told me that they too would have responded as Michael did. I do not fault them for this choice—I know all too well how difficult life is with an autistic child—but it is one I never would have considered, one I cannot bear to contemplate. Even when I’m exhausted, depressed, and totally overwhelmed, when my life is a sweater unraveled

The moment I saw Katie in the hospital, an hour after her birth, she was my child. There was never any thought of going back. Not ever. Even when Katie was diagnosed and everything changed. Even when I realized Michael was leaving and I would be parenting alone. Even on those days when I don’t know how I will survive until bedtime. Even then, I cannot muster the will to change course. I may not have chosen this life initially, but I continue to choose it—consciously and whole-heartedly, on good days and bad.

I don’t know how some people find it possible to abandon a child while others find it equally impossible to do the same. I don’t know why some days I feel like a failure. What I do know is this: there is not much that a good night’s sleep cannot fix. Even single parenting and autism look better in the morning.

Believe me, I know.

Until next time,
Cynthia Patton

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Autism, My Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to My Life as a Sweater

  1. Karen Hogan says:

    There is a tribe who purposely weaves a mistake into their tapestries. I had believed for years that the purpose was to show their humility before god. Then I found out it was to let life through.

    That’s what I thought about when I read about your sweater and its moth holes.

    I imagine you would be very happy if there were less life coming through some times. And yet, you carry on.

    For what it’s worth, I think you got the better deal when Michael left and Katie stayed.

    Good post

  2. Jenn says:

    shocked that anyone would suggest you send Katie back. Agree w/ Karen that you indeed got the better deal.

    Sometimes it’s all we can do to sit on our bed and cry no matter the circumstance and there is nothing wrong with that! (we should all be so honest and authentic about our emotions).

    If your life is a “sweater unraveled” I’m guessing it’s cashmere and you’ll make something else out of it.

    • cjpatton says:

      I wish it were a cashmere sweater! But it’s soft and a beautiful shade of periwinkle and I couldn’t bear to give it up, so I found some thread that matched and managed to patch it up. I suspect my cat is hoping it falls apart so he can use it as a bed. Lol.

  3. Lora King says:

    People can be so insensitive. I am amazed at how they can respond sometimes…there are no guarantees in life…not with children, biological or otherwise and not with spouses either, for that matter.
    We attempted to adopt a little 2yr old boy that was austistic and had muscular dystrophy. He had actually been adopted at birth by a very wealthy family. Once his new family found out what his (and their) future would hold, they couldn’t deal. We met the family and although we could not imagine making the decision they were making, we also could not really fault them. They were older and just couldn’t see they would be there for the little boy. Ultimately, they chose a family that adopted special needs children as a lifestyle and knew exactly what they were in for.
    Still…I am sorry people can’t see what is so obvious…you are Katie’s mom…good or bad, happy or sad…forever. And the blessing is yours….
    Thank you for sharing of your life Cynthia!

    • cjpatton says:

      I feel sorry in a way for that “wealthy” family that had the resources to help a child in need and yet lacked the courage to do so. But I also feel that maybe it was best the child didn’t stay with them if they truly didn’t feel up to the task. Who can say for sure? Obviously they lacked good judgment if they didn’t pick you! Mostly I try not to judge because it’s always so much more complicated than we can see from the outside.

      And I think people can see that I’m Katie’s mom. That’s not the issue. It’s that they don’t know how I deal with autism as a single parent. More on this in an upcoming post. :)

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Elis says:

    superb! i’ve gotten through the 5 newest posts, and i’m lovin’ it! i’ve really enjoyed your blog.

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