You can’t tell the mothers just by looking. They reveal themselves in their choices.
I just read about the origins of cognitive therapy, where “Therapy may consist of testing the assumptions which one makes and looking for new information that could help shift the assumptions in a way that leads to different emotional or behavioral reactions.”
To me, that sounds like what a mother does. Mothers help growth by giving context. The rest is detail.
Sure, kids need to be fed and cleaned and kept warm, but that can be done even by bureaucrats.
The real grace of mothering comes from listening close enough to be present for learning, helping discover new and better ways to interact with the world. That starts with understanding before language, meeting needs, offering challenges and pushing beyond in ways that are unspoken.
Communication is the foundation of human interaction. Learning language, which includes not only mastering the symbols but also the concepts and strategies behind it, is the fundamental basic of living a human life. We need to be able to learn from stories and to express who we are to fully participate in the possibilities society offers us.
One of the most difficult parts of learning is moving beyond the limited, flawed or fearful notions we already hold. Unless you are willing to expose, test and change your beliefs, you will always be stuck.
Shifting the assumptions we hold is what cognitive therapists do. It is also what good moms have always done.
I had to find a way to shift my own assumptions from a very early age in order to function in a family where both my parents were stuck in the tunnel vision that comes with an Aspergers mind. Becoming a concept former was my solution, trying to understand beyond my current knowledge to become more effective and safe.
My nickname was “Stupid” for years because I questioned and challenged the standard assumptions rather than just making what was seen as the smart and easy choice to follow along with the conventional wisdom. It was brutal treatment, but I knew the only way to hold onto myself and protect my siblings was to stand up for better, smarter, fairer and more loving.
In the assault that was my family, I learned to be manipulative, using any trick I could find to change viewpoints and get what I needed. I was never devious or secretive — my goals were open and clear — but I was needy and pathetic.
Coming out helped me move beyond smallness and start listening. Because I could read others, understanding their meanings, I could fight fair and fun, working to find common ground and common goals. My deep thinking let me analyze situations and my snappy performance let me be entertaining as I led. I could start by hearing, affirming and holding the truth of a life while also shining light on ways to expand it, a trick that many miss when they just want to ignore truth rather than growing it into transcendence.
Caring for my parents in the last decade of their life was just a continuation of being a caring, engage and loving cognitive therapist; being a mom.
I cared for my parents, even in ways they could not vocalize, like making sure my mother always had novelty and something to gripe about, and I helped my parents shift their understanding to make better choices, at least as far as I could.
When I finally ended up participating in a support group, the leader saw that I listened to participants in a unique way, then offering up not what they expected but rather bits of story that changed the context, moving past current assumptions to see in a new way, like a cognitive therapist, or a good mom.
Others have seen this, having their assumptions challenged over years to find a way to move beyond limiting behaviours to new ways that opened up hot new possibilities for them. They were ready for change and I had the skills to help, something that is rare in a world where people only heal and grow in their own way and their own time.
What I lack, though, what I have always lacked, is a cognitive therapist who can see both my possibilities and my deeply held expectations to help me move beyond. I need, as I have said so many times, someone who can give an affirming and encouraging “Yes!” to me, helping me let go of twists and trust my own shine.
What I lack is a good mom. As much as I learned to care for myself and others, it’s impossible to be your own mom, moving beyond your own fears and experiences with affirmation and love.
It is nice to get a Mother’s Day gift from California and to have my sister offer to take me for a 50¢ Mother’s Day cone, to be seen as a mom by some who know my choices.
It is hard, though, to have lived a life without an affirming mom, to not have that mom voice deeply embedded in my head and in my heart.
I need it now, need to trust it, need to move beyond. This week I have been scratching at the “Burden Of Remembrance” for the local Transgender Day Of Remembrance coming up in November, so I am very aware of the assumptions and expectations I have had to carry for so long, not just for myself but also for my community, my queer family.
Looking like a stereotypical mom is not something I can do. Many just don’t know a mom when they hear one, and others need to be focused on their own growth & healing more than helping oldsters. That’s OK; I could never be a stereotypical mom, just cleaning & feeding. I’m queer, which means helping individuals blossom and spread in a world that desperately needs to affirm the power of personal possibility.
It’s just that, well, sometimes, I need to believe beyond myself. Yes.