She maybe the first to wake up. The last to sleep. The first to soothe the tears or shield the pain. The last to cry her tears or open the hurt. Mothering is both a skill and art. The first is popular. From knowing how to nurture connections with a new life, with the life itself upon its arrival and the greater community to simple gestures of love with every bathing, every soothing, every singing, every caring, every feeding, mothering is a skill that varies with each mother. Though it can be rekindled, rejuvenated, refined, with each passing day, each passing moment that let mother’s relieve the joys of this skill.
But as art, the impression mothering leaves on the woman is lasting. As art, mothering is another matter. Like knocking on a moonlit door, it is full of silence. Even when the knock is louder, the silence remains. Amidst all the loud noise, the crying babe, the running water, silence for her being. Not because her soul isn’t stirred or shaken by the knock. She listens. Not because the knock isn’t louder or that she doesn’t lift her head. She is still. As art mothering is full of this silent stillness. This form of art that engulfs those who mother is often hidden, invisible and between everything else that occupies her being. As a mom to a child on the spectrum, my life depends on it.
When we started my son with behavioral therapy at the age of 2, the goal was to gain skills to help him function above his noise. I learnt new thing’s like the mind’s love for stimming and gained new skills like redirecting the mind. Almost none of the skills I gained worked. The brain was indeed a powerful element. I was prepared to work with my son so long as we got basic skills down like using words rather than pointing or looking people in the eye rather than looking away. But the place where I lacked power was with the crying. When the meltdowns begin, triggered by almost anything, nothing stops it. The brain has a mind of its own.
On one occasion, the meltdown was intense. The behavioral therapist was in our home. She looked like us. One of the drawbacks of therapy is the lack of people that understood your frustrations with few words. Melissa did. She was the reason why I believed therapy would work despite my inability to acquire any skills. But on this day, the crying was strong. She took him to a room. Removed all the things that he would use to hurt himself, kept him in the room, locked the door and proceeded to ask him to calm down. I was silent. My heart was crying, but in silence, in stillness. I listened to my son cry during a period which felt like eternity. Though his tears were visible, mine was just as strong, though invisible. Melissa pleaded, asked for him to remain calm. The brain still had a mind of its own. This process lasted for over 45 minutes with the brain acquiescing. Through Melissa, I knew we could listen to the stress, though the brain may still win. Where Melissa had the power to knock and the brain opened, I lacked the emotional strength to do the same. Everytime I knocked on my own during my son’s meltdowns, the brain won.
Overtime pieces of the tears began to engulf my being. I too began to listen, to dance to the rhythms of the brain, it’s own language. It’s been three years since the incident with Melissa and now, the brain does the knocking. Imagine speaking to an open brain. Overtime, after years of countless knocking, and with the help of countless people, I watch as my son’s brain started to do the knocking, started to open up. Though the meltdowns are still there, they are more refined, more restorative, more revealing. Though his brain may still have a strange way with his being, a silent stillness is my response. Even when his cries grow louder. In stillness, I remain silent, listening to his brain’s language. Even with no words each meltdown has become powerful. And with no words, my silent stillness is just the same. On an occasional basis, the knock may be louder. Is anybody there, the brain may even ask of me. My silence, my stillness is just as loud.