Sockpants and Super Heroes: Barn Cat Mama
I don’t think there is a mom in this world who hasn’t completely lost her sh!# when her cub was in danger or wronged in some capacity. My mama bear roar was heard loud and clear one evening when, after spending over $60 at the gas pump of a mom-and-pop fuel station, my four-year old daughter was refused the emergency use of their toilet. You can imagine the owner’s shock when this mama bear instructed her cub to whiz right there on his freshly scrubbed convenience store floor. Wanting to join the scrap any way possible, big brother Tyler valiantly offered to handle the request should his sister refuse. This event has still been etched into my children’s minds as the most epic mama bear battle they have ever witnessed.
While protecting my cubs and righting unacceptable wrong-doings is something I will gladly engage without hesitation, there is also something to be said for my alter-ego persona, the barn cat mama. I personally feel that the barn cat mama is worthy of its own Facebook meme or dime store t-shirt and yet there seems to be very few moms who self-identify with this wise mama from the animal kingdom. I describe the barn cat mama as a loving and attentive parent who has been around the block of kitten rearing enough to value the importance of natural consequences.
Natural consequences come in all shapes and sizes. Some natural consequences can be neat and tidy. Knowing that my daughter will miss her morning recess because she left her homework folder laying on the seat of the family car teaches her the valuable lesson of responsibility. Other natural consequences are a little messier when, as a parent, I advocate that the school hand down a harsher sentence to teach my teenager that being disrespectful to teachers is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Where I find difficulty is balancing the mama bear vs. barn cat mama ratios when it comes to my child who is differently-abled.
My oldest and youngest children, aside from minor medical idiosyncrasies, live very typical developmental lives. Tyler, despite having Tourette’s syndrome, prefers to fight his own battles and becomes irritated when mama bear engages in battle in his defense. My daughter, having had chronic ear challenges since birth, learned at an early age to compensate for her hearing deficit and rarely, if ever, has any visible challenges. My son, Caleb, is an entirely different story. Living with high functioning autism and viewing the world through a different color lens makes many aspects of life incredibly challenging, not just for him, but also his over protective mama.
While there is no doubt Caleb needs to be more responsible for turning in his homework, missing recess as a consequence more often than not just triggers more undesired behaviors and rigidity. A statement of, “you stink,” is not intended to be an overt act of disrespect, but rather a means for him to vocalize that a person’s perfume or lotion causes him sensory overload. As a mother, I’m constantly coaching him on ways to soften his delivery so that his words are less offensive to those he’s interacting with in hopes that the parenting double standard that exists when it comes to my expectations of him versus his siblings will eventually balance.
One would think that my oldest and youngest children would be fed up with this mama bear vs. barn cat mama double standard. It doesn’t take long to see that they too apply this same set of standards in their interactions with each other. Little sister, Kelly, will baby bear brawl her teenage brother over the X-Box controller to make sure he respects her turn on the game console. However, little sister often chooses to forego her gaming time to allow Caleb more time to play his favorite video game. In similar fashion, Tyler will spend hours coaching his brother on different ways to make friends while telling his sister, “that’s what you get for being so bossy,” when she’s upset about a disagreement with a close friend.
As Caleb gets older I have every reason to believe that our standards and expectations for him will normalize and we all will become comfortable letting natural consequences teach him valuable life lessons. Until then I have comfort in knowing that Tyler and Kelly understand my struggles and have my back by supporting their differently-abled brother with unconditional love and will continue to be my trusty side-kicks in our crazy adventures in Sockpants and Super Heroes.
Holly Lytle is the mother of three and is the founder of The ISAAC Foundation, a local autism non-profit organization. In her free time Holly enjoys chronicling her many adventures of motherhood for this column.
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