Thursday, October 11, 2007

Paying the price for mommy guilt

This is a difficult post to write. It forces me to reckon with a problem that I have really become aware of the last few weeks and the fault is all mine. My son, NR, is a great kid. I love him to pieces and I wouldn't change one thing about him, even his autism, which at times can be challenging. Back when I was working full time, I felt guilty about NR. Real, true guilt. I was battling depression and anxiety and I felt awful about how much time I was spending away from him. But in the evenings, I was too exhausted and too troubled with my own baggage to be really interactive with him. Playing with NR takes full concentration and effort and sometimes I just wasn't up to it. So, out of guilt and wanting to make him happy, I gave into his every demand for toys. One part of NR's autism is that he gets engrossed in whatever is his fancy that week - a trait he has no doubt inherited from me. So when he is into Batman or Spiderman or Ben 10, he is really into them. Every trip to the grocery store required a journey down the toy aisle. He has a massive toy collection. These purchases kept him happy and assuaged some of my guilt. Unfortunately, this has brought about some troubling habits.

NR is never satisfied. He is never ok with what he has; he is always on the lookout for the next great thing. And I made him that way. My overindulgence and compensation with material crap has made him a consumer, in every ugly sense of that word. I see this now, fully and clearly, when he is crying before bedtime because he doesn't have a Green Goblin toy to go with the hundred other action figures he has. But now, that the materialistic bell has already been rung, now what do I do? How do I pull him back from this abyss and get him back to a kid who is content with what he has and who he is.

I don't have the answer to this. I'm going to try some things and report on how they work. I'm hoping to get some wisdom from blogland too. I hope that my shifting our family priorities away from TV and commercialism will help. I hope that getting him involved in a group, like the Boy Scouts, will give him some new purpose. And I hope that I can be strong enough to hold firm and not give in to his pleas for new stuff. I really hope there is a way to unring is bell.


Lorraine said...

Motherhood, thy name is guilt.

We all feel guilty about something. Please don't beat yourself up too much.

How old is your son?

And I didn't know he was autistic. Bless your heart. I have 2 nephews who are. And Anne, over at Anne's House? Her son is autistic as well. She might have some ideas.

The consumerism thing is a tough one and it's a battle. But it's worth fighting.

Good luck.

Sling said...

Well,you've identified the problem perfectly.
At the risk of over simplifying,the cure is obvious...Just say no.
..and he'll insist,and cry,and you'll feel like a complete ogre,but before long he'll come to value the things he has...hard to do when toys fall from the sky.
I don't mean to imply that he should never get something he desires,only that getting them is that much sweeter when it's not a matter of course.
What magic is there in Christmas,when it arrives on a daily basis?..

Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

ugh. difficult. Don't be so hard on yourself though - I think many families go through similar issues. I haven't any children as yet so I certainly can't pretend to recommend any ideas. I do agree with Sling to a certain degree although I imagine that autism presents an additionaly challenge into the mix.

Kimberly Ann said...

Thanks all for the comments. NR is 7, by the way. And I think Sling is correct with the tough love approach. I'm trying to substitute other things for the toys. We're going to the library today to get him a card. His interest in reading has perked up and maybe being able to change out his books will help.