Last Updated on March 20, 2018

“Other parents with autistic children manage to do this all the time, so why can’t you?”

The above statement, made by a person in charge of my daughter’s special education plan, made me so angry my hands shook. The words reached into the raw, battered, insecure place inside my mommy-of-an-autistic-child heart and ripped wide gashes. I couldn’t think in straight lines. I couldn’t answer the inquiries that the person fired at me, nor could I believe the continued comparison to how much better other parents with autistic children managed. Tears burned my eyes, and I could barely steer my car into a parking lot. I’m sure the person who said these things didn’t wake up and decide to obliterate someone’s day, and I’m certain that my inner insecurities colored my perception of that person’s actual message, but …

I’m angry — raw and angry. I want to scream at that person, and I want God to punish them (I use a general pronoun here on purpose). I want to blame that person for my hurt feelings, and I want to tell the world what a terrible human being they are. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like disappointing people. I don’t like being imperfect. And I don’t like when people use negative statements that lack compassion to deal with others.

I struggle to let go of my anger. I want to clutch it like a child with a lollipop. Even though it’s sticky and will rot my insides if I keep feeding on it, I want to keep it and want to hold onto it until I see this other person make a mistake so that I can feel superior. My angry thoughts and insecurities circle me like vultures: “How could they say that? As if I don’t already feel inadequate about my parenting on every level.” “If I were a better parent, Rachel would have made more progress.” “If I were a better parent, Rachel would have a better vocabulary.” “If I were a better mother, my other daughter wouldn’t have her issues.” If, if, if …

I resist praying about the issue because I know I will have to give it away, to give up the anger. I read in the Psalms and commiserate with David in his pain and feelings of abandonment. I tell God I know my anger is leading me to sin, but I really want Him to make this other person feel terrible about what they said. And I want Him to give them a spiritual spanking. Please.

But … a friend just spoke to me about a parenting issue she’d been having and said that she got up this morning and told God, “Hey, I’ve been trying to help you with my problem, but it’s pretty obvious you don’t need my help since everything I’m doing is accomplishing nothing. So, I’m just going to quit worrying about it and let you handle it.”

Hmm. Perhaps that was a message just for me. So, I have a choice to make: Give up my anger; go on with life. Do I forgive and allow that person to be a human being who makes mistakes, or do I let my anger poison me until it takes over my thinking and robs me of joy in other areas? When I put it that way… I guess I have some work to do.

*An afterthought:

I wrote this in the midst of a difficult time and shared my authentic feelings while they were fresh. Sometimes we have to experience pain to understand the freedom on the other side of it. Anyway, I thought this was finished, but an interesting thing happened the day after I wrote this. I released my anger. I cannot describe exactly what happened, but I took my friend’s advice to heart. Just a few minutes later, our pediatrician called to say they had a note for us to take to the school. And just after that, I received another call about getting a child advocate to help us through this. Interesting what happens when I let God take control and stop trying to carry everything by myself.

The Gift of Max
Life can change in a moment. Emily Colson, joined by her father Chuck Colson, talks about the birth of her beautiful son, Max. Reeling from a difficult divorce and fearing what might underlie Max’s difficulties, Emily persevered in seeking help for her son, who was eventually diagnosed with autism.

Living Bravely
It’s not adversity that defines you, but how you handle it that matters. Chuck Colson and his daughter, Emily, talk about the beautiful things Max, Emily’s autistic son, has taught them about life and love.

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  1. Jennifer,

    I so appreciate your raw honesty. Though I do not have an autistic child I can relate to feeling angry with someone who hurt me recently. I wanted God to do all the things you said, to fix it, to show this person how selfish and immature "they" were acting, but like you I have had to bear it without seeing it made right, not yet anyway and probably not for a long time, and let it go knowing God sees and knows all.


  2. Thank you!! It helps to know I'm not alone… my little girl is not autistic, but because of my limitations I am often criticized for they way my husband and I are and are not doing things the way other parents think we should. I battle with my insecurities daily… and try to cling to a quote I read (which I know, but need to be reminded of daily)… "I am the mom God chose for my daughter!" And her adoption story makes that so very clear! but I forget… and yet somehow, God thought I (and my husband) was best for my little girl… sin, illness, and all… but the pain others can inflict with their words can blur the truth. Thank you!! I needed to read your blog tonite!!!!

    1. Kristen,

      Thanks for sharing your heart. Feeling insecure and judged by others is so painful sometimes. I know the feeling well. But like you, I just have to keep reflecting on the fact that God has chosen me as Rachel's mom and he will make all my paths straight. 🙂 Jenn D

  3. Jennifer, I am so sorry! I have had days like that, believe me. Some people can just be really clueness. It sounds like you've found a solution though. And yes, God has chosen you to be many things – Rachel's wonderfully capable, loving mom, a kickass friend, a terrific wife, a maker of Xtreme cakes. Believe me, He chose well. 🙂 On an extreme side note , can I just say wow, the writing in this article was incredible?

  4. Mikka Mabius says:

    As a mom of a son with autism, I have often felt this pain. It is a roller coaster in life that leaves us nauseous and exhausted. Reach out to others that walk in similar shoes–they get it and can many times offer ideas that can't be thought of when you are in the midst of the pain. I see every day that this is all part of the purpose I am trying to understand for my life–God will direct me when it is time.

  5. Cindy Gonyer says:

    I appreciate the honesty and the post itself. I am a mother of twins, boy/girl, who both have autism. They are completely opposite – what one excels at, the other does not. I have usually had great experiences with my children's school personnel, but lately, it is becoming more difficult to get positive feedback. Everything is negative and "what my child cannot do." It is very defeating as a parent and I've often felt the emotions spoke of in the post. It's hard to let go and let God – but He has the answers. I obviously do not.

    1. Cindy, my heart hurts for you! Thank you for sharing your heart and your very difficult journey. I will pray for you today and thank God for your love toward the children he gave you.

  6. I have to admit I probably WAS that professional before I became the parent sitting in your seat. I shutter to think how I may have made some of my Special Parents (and I don't mean that in a sarcastic way) feel. I KNOW God blessed me with a Special child so I could become a better Special Education Teacher. As that Special parent I need to remind myself too (amid the flooding bathroom, food scattered house and poo smeared carpets/furniture) that God is there and I have to put the trials in his loving hands. It sometimes takes reminders like yours to put it in front of me again. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your very honest, very real response. Facing the past can often be painful. I have come to see that even the most sympathetic person cannot wholly understand what others face unless they have had similar experiences. I'm sure there are so many parents who will read your response and feel intense comfort from your words. Plus, I am confident that all the people you serve in your career have always been and will continue to be blessed by your caring heart.