Dear Puberty: A Flustered Mother’s Attempt at Persuasive Letter Writing
My 12 year old daughter, Leora, had to write a persuasive letter this week at school. I have no doubt that she was able to singlehandedly save Modern Family from its theoretical doom, by persuading the president of the network not to cancel the show. Whew! Good to know that in the face of major cultural challenges, the writing apple doesn’t fall too far from the maternal tree. If I can’t take full credit for her straight A’s and her place on the Principal’s Honor Roll, I can at least take credit for that. So, inspired by my middle child, I thought I’d take a crack at writing my own persuasive letter. Since you, Puberty, have been making my life increasingly difficult these days, I thought I’d try to get you to see things my way.
As you already know, Puberty, the last few months with Yael have been particularly exhausting & exasperating. As if our good friend Autism didn’t already make life interesting enough, along you come and with your hormones, outbursts, outbreaks and mood swings, life on the spectrum has suddenly become a whole lot trickier. As if it wasn’t hard enough for my daughter to understand, process and identify her emotions, along you come with your hormonal surges and she finds herself crying over nothing at all, or becoming easily agitated and angry over the littlest things. Add to that the fact that she feels overwhelmed by all of the things she is now required to do in order to put herself together, and the stress level between mother & daughter reaches new highs (or lows depending on your perspective).
We’ve gone from simply showering, brushing teeth and brushing hair, to a whole slew of self-care responsibilities that Yael finds it increasingly difficult to manage. In case you didn’t realize it, my daughter struggles with intuitive thinking. It’s not her fault. Simply put, it’s just not how the autistic brain is wired. Yael can’t read situations, and she struggles to read people. So it’s not her fault that she doesn’t inherently understand the importance of her new teenage cleaning & care regiment. It’s my job as her mother to help her.
Yael struggles with her executive functioning skills as well, Puberty. It’s written up in her psychoeducational evaluation, which you should really take the time to read when you have a few minutes. So, up goes the list that we created together. Yes, in order to help her get organized and plan out all that she needs to do, she has a checklist. She refers to it each day to help her organize herself and her responsibilities. It’s got a schedule for tweezing, shaving, acne medication, washing her face, how to fix her hair and every little detail in between. It’s even broken down into AM & PM. Okay, so here’s the thing Puberty… whose job is it to help ensure that she does all of these things? Who is the one that has to point it out to her when it is clear that she isn’t staying on top of that list? Who has to keep trying to explain to her why any of it matters in the first place? That’s right Puberty, it’s me. I’m not only mom, advocate and life coach, now I am the enforcer. Not, I repeat, not, a role that I am relishing.
So, why can’t you make life a little easier on this haggard and tired mom? I mean, would it be so bad if you dialed down the skin issues, so that once in a while it wouldn’t matter if she skipped the astringent or skin meds at the end of a long day? Can we temper the monthly mood swings? It’s too much for her Puberty. Sometimes it feels like you and Autism get bored, so just for fun you decide to join forces and out of nowhere you just blindside my kid. Really Puberty?! Really?! In my book, a girl who shares her life with Autism has enough on her plate. Life on the spectrum is tough enough for her, and me, to navigate some days. Now you plant your little landmines all over the place, and I’m left to clean up every unanticipated explosion.
So here’s my proposal, Puberty. I’m not saying that you’re not welcome to be in my daughter’s life. I get the value and beauty that you bring. I understand nature’s progression from girlhood into womanhood. I explain all of that to Yael, though I’m fairly certain it does little to comfort her. I’m just saying that, quite honestly, you haven’t been a very thoughtful visitor. A little sensitivity training might be in order when you come at a kid with special needs. Maybe you could be a lot less forthright in your appearance, and bring a little more subtlety to your approach. Stop going so hard at the skin, the hair, the emotional swings. Be a little more gentle, a little more kind. I know it’s not generally in your nature, but try anyway. My daughter is only 13, we’ve got a long way to go before we part ways with you. So, while we’re together, let’s try to reach an understanding. I’ll do my part Puberty. I’ll coach my daughter, help her to get organized, teach her all that she needs to know to care for herself and help ensure that she is as independent as possible. But you’ve gotta cut me some slack, Puberty. We’re in new territory here and I feel like I am learning by the seat of my pants. And recently, the seat of my pants is feeling kind of whooped.
So here it is, my closing argument. Here is where I drive home my point and leave you feeling persuaded. I’m going to break it down into plain and simple terms for you, Puberty. You see, sometimes what I miss most is just being able to be “mom.” Autism demands SO much more of me. The truth is that some days, I don’t have a whole lot left over. That means my patience runs thin, my temper runs high and I feel like running away. I have two other beautiful children & a husband who need me. I have a job and responsibilities. I do the best I can Puberty, but to be honest, you are making my days a lot more stressful. My daughter said that she thinks we’re “having a hard time in our relationship” because of you, and I have to agree with her.
So please Puberty, I hope you’ll consider my arguments & just dial it down. Back off of my kid a little bit and don’t be so damn hard on her, and on me. Remember that Autism is always around, and it might be nice if y’all coordinated a little more thoughtfully, so that my kid doesn’t feel like you are tag teaming her all the time. Give me a chance to just be a mom, and give her a little less to carry on her plate. It’s not a lot to ask of you, Puberty. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to go drown my frustrations in a whole lot of chocolate.
P.S. I am going to ”cc” Autism on this letter, just to be sure we’re all on the same page.