Having babies is like starting your own fan club. But then sometimes when kids get older, they start to question us, like believers question Mother God as they get older in faith.
Marshall is that age where we get critiqued regularly. He says, “I feel like an intruder lately.” He wonders if we love his new brother more than we love him. He wonders if we no longer adore him, now that he isn’t a baby and included in that mutual adoration club.
He’s right that we don’t love him in the exact same way as his brother who is fourteen months old. In some ways the love I have for Marshall has stronger, deeper roots due to more time, nine years vs. 14 months. In other ways, the love I have for him is like offering vegetables when a child wants brownies. It’s not sweet enough.
It stings. It’s hard for me to admit that I treat Sam with warmth because mostly what I get from him is positive, and I struggle to treat Marshall the same way when he calls me names and criticizes me. (He is repeating the behaviors of the bully, but it’s still hard to take).
Yet, Marshall scarcely even knows what he is saying, or its impact on us emotionally. Asperkids, at least sometimes, lack a “theory of mind.” They don’t fully realize others have a mind separate from their own. It makes these kids and adults seem egocentric.
John Elder Robinson, who wrote Look Me in the Eye, says he will sometimes walk into a party, go straight to the television, and turn it off, because it bothers him. He forgets to think about the fact that someone may be watching it. But he means well.
For Marshall, when he calls us “creep” and “jerk,” he is stating a fact. That this fact-naming might make him less immediately lovable never occurs to him. Our voice tone changing into irritation is inexplicable. One of us leaving the room suddenly to try to cope feels like rejection. We are learning to do the superhuman feat of staying cheerful in all situations or Marshall’s feeling of rejection is only intensified.
Marshall wants to stay connected in the same way Sam naturally is by being dependent, vulnerable and cute (like Marshall was at fourteen months old). He wants baby-cradling, but at 4 foot 6 inches, it just isn’t happening much, despite our good intentions.
And now all the anger and hurt within him is expanding into a universe, creating someone we don’t know.
Suddenly we parents are not adored anymore.
But the real divine task of parenthood is to always reach out; to be Jesus of the one lost sheep; to never give up; to, like El Shaddai, be ready with new mercies every day, and with an open heart that can heal, and be hurt again.
Jesus spoke the truth to people about sin (including sin toward children), but in the end, his final word was forgiveness—because “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus took their perspective, and he could forgive.
The truth is all of us have difficulty seeing from others’ point of view. Parents may have this problem even more than people with Asperger’s. But that is key in being a good mom or dad, especially to a child who is often misunderstood, and another child who can’t yet speak for himself.
We’re all children inside, seen inaccurately, and without the right words, sometimes. We criticize Mother God when we’re really asking for love and protection and for Her to understand us.
And we’re always in need of the kind of forgiveness that sees our hearts and stays open, the kind She gives every day–even when we don’t adore Her like we once did.