Talking to a wise woman today, and we got to thinking about how – when you are stretched as tight as you can be, hanging on by fingertips and toetips, straining to provide the super-structure that your child needs to cope – it doesn’t take much for others to knock bits off you. A comment, intended or otherwise, makes a chip in my paintwork when I don’t have a free hand to protect myself. And the tiny hurts build up, and twinge in the night, when I lie awake, feeling them fresh once I can finally lay down my child and relax my grip.
I’m calling it the “By-Now” Syndrome. Aren’t they able to do that by themselves By Now? Can’t they do after-school club By Now? Haven’t they given up drinking from a bottle By Now? Can’t you leave them in the evenings By Now? All laced with a heavy dose of judgement, which if I shine a light on it, is at once saying “they’ve made so much progress with you” and “you’re doing it wrong”. Um, they’ve made the progress because I do it this way. If I stopped now, we could all watch the pieces fall…
The By-Now Syndrome is especially hurtful from people I thought understood just how much effort, preparation, and support it takes, to make Cupcake look like she’s doing things with almost ease. It is so much easier to think that love makes everything all better, or that time heals all wounds, or that because a child seems to be coping with things they couldn’t before, then the past has disappeared just as if a re-set button has been pressed. It is a lot harder to hold different truths in balance: the damage and pain will always be there; the differences in neurological patterns will always be there; the deep, deep need for more support will always be there; and at the same time, yes, they are doing better, there is healing, there is hope, there are reasons to celebrate the successes.
I seem to have hit a point, a few years in, where the By-Now syndrome is having a real flare-up. There is a definite overtone of head-tilting “you’re being over-protective” to some of the communications from school, or even occasional family members.
A massive cup of hot chocolate and a thank you to my wise woman (she from the first paragraph) who invited me to re-frame “over-protective” into “protective”. That word I can live with, proudly, no matter how many scrapes I get in my appearance.