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May7th2012

How my special needs son taught me to be guilt-free

My son Andrew continues to offer his unique perspective on the world just by being who he is. I went into this motherhood business thinking I’d be the one to impart of all of my worldly wisdom on my kids, and instead, I’ve learned more from Andrew than I could ever hope to teach him.

The wonders and joys of special needs parenting are truly endless, and for every difficulty I face raising my son, there are many more ways in which Andrew brings light and love into my life, filling my heart with more “Woohooos!” than I know what to do with.

This week’s lesson from Andrew came during a visit from a family member who shall remain nameless. This particular person has a Ph.D in guilt tripping others and when I was growing up, I remember being made to feel that if I didn’t give this person my undivided attention and absolute adoration, she would lay on the guilt nice and thick until I was coated in it from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.

Guilt is an almost impossible beast to tame; once you acknowledge its existence, once you feed it just the one time, it will never leave your side and pretty soon it’s always hungry and you’re spending all of your time sustaining it, keeping it alive.

So as someone who’s spent the majority of her life with this beast by her side, I was fascinated by Andrew’s response to this particular family member as she tried to use her weapon of mass destruction on him. When he didn’t give her exactly what she wanted when she wanted it, she whipped out the guilt, really laying it on thick.

And Andrew did nothing.

It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. My charming, brilliant little boy essentially giving guilt the finger. In fact, he was completely immune to this woman who has spent her entire life bullying others with her one-way guilt trips. I watched as she faltered while my son ignored her attempts and I just know I must have had a giant grin plastered upon my face.

“Okay Andrew. I guess you don’t love me.”

“Yay.”

“Okay Andrew, I guess it’s time for me to go then. I guess you really don’t want me around, do you? I guess we won’t have fun together after all. Bye Andrew.”

“Eye.”

I observed this exchange between my son and this family member unfold and I imagined what it must be like to be free from the kind of guilt that can poison relationships and cause so much unnecessary pain and frustration.

I watched Andrew, with his kind eyes and pure soul and I felt the little five year old inside me, the one that’s been taught to please others at any cost, sit up and take notice as she dared to dream of a life without the beast by her side.

And in that moment, thanks to the wisdom of my little boy, I vowed to give guilt the finger more often. And I felt free.

This Modified Life is a column by Jo Ashline for and about the families in Orange County living with special needs. Jo is a freelance writer and married mother of two. If you have a question for Jo or a suggestion for a topic, email her at ashline02@sbcglobal.net.

By JO ASHLINE

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