Needs. We all have them. I certainly do, and my children do also, especially E. He has special needs, high needs, extra needs and superfluous needs. His needs buffet my body, my mind, my patience, and suck every bit of energy I might otherwise have had for things like, say, brushing my teeth.
Now, I know the adage about want vs. need, and some of the problem is one of being okay with “good enough” parenting. To survive, a child certainly needs some things – food, water, perhaps clothing and shelter, and even love. Failure to thrive is a recorded illness, born of neglect. Babies sometimes die from lack of touch, even when the rest of the necessities are provided for.
But what about those things that seep out from deep inside of us? Those drives that we can hardly contain, let alone triumph over? For instance, I need reassurance that I will not be abandoned. I do not mean an occasional sweet-talk-lite comment about always loving me. I mean concrete words expressing delusional certainty that nothing will ever cause separation. In that same way, Ethan needs contact. He needs skin on skin, no regard for personal space contact of the sort that will suck a person dry over the course of a very short time, like twenty minutes. I am constantly covered with bruises and have developed an over-responsive flinch reflex, much like a victim of abuse (okay, so maybe that was already there, but still). I do not think that I have that kind of reassurance to give, at least not without sacrificing mental and physical health.
All this to say, I might not always, or even usually, be the kind of mother I envisioned when I was in the planning and manufacturing stages of parenting.
I used to be one of those people. You know them. They look at you in the grocery store when your children have gone from Mogwai to Gremlin in six seconds. They give you the glare, the one that tells you you are a compleat and utter failure (compleat because these looks, for whatever reason, are accompanied by a British accent maybe reminiscent of Jo the Super Nanny. Or maybe that was just a dream…). I have doled out that look many times from the comfort of my non-child-having state, or at least the first-child-is-so-good-I-don’t-see-what-the-big-deal-is state. Then came number two.
Now, when I get that inevitable glare in the check out line, in the coffee shop, in the bookstore, the doctor’s office and the local pub – I look those idiots in the eye and say, “It’s hard to raise a leader.”