Friday, April 27, 2012

Step 27: What makes a mom a Warrior Mom?

Autism Awareness month for me is a time to reflect on how far I've come in my own "Life with Autism" and all those who have helped me get to where I am.  My fellow warriors who daily fight a good fight against autism. 

Someone recently criticized the term "Warrior Mom" as in implying as a Christian it wasn't proper, it was too brusque. That I should instead stick to "Camo-Mom" as something less intimidating. I have to say I that I disagree and think that's why the epidemic of autism is where it is today.  Too many people want to sugar-coat it.  Camouflaging it by Lighting it up Blue is much easier and more politically correct than fighting whatever battle it takes to fight it, to defeat it. A camouflaged autism mom who never dares to stand up or speak out will never win the war on autism.  A camouflaged Christian who never dares to step outside their comfort zone will never win the battle of getting God back in our country and winning hearts for him. No, for that, we need people to call themselves Christian Warriors. Who will stand up, speak out, and powerfully pray in packs. Those who merely occupy a pew in church will never be effective in occupying our country, let alone heaven, with saved souls.

We need Christians raising their voice so loud it silences satan's.

We need Warrior Mom's raising their voice so loud that our government finally hears the silence of our children's.

To me what "Warrior Mom" means is found in the book by Richard "Mack" Machowicz called "Unleash the Warrior Within."

In the preface Mack says this: 
"True warriors understand this... Being a warrior is not about the act of fighting.  It's about the ability, courage, and commitment to end the war within oneself and not quit until the job is done.  Whether it's ending war within your home, your relationships, your neighborhood, your business, your country, or your world, warriors understand that they have to start from within themselves and build outward.  They know that by mastering the war within themselves, they can make the greatest difference in their world."
Click here to learn more about Mack & his book.

I like that.  It's amazing that he most likely doesn't know a thing about autism's impact on a family or anything at all about Warrior Mom's - yet what he wrote describes at least how I view myself as a warrior mom.  In being a Warrior-Mom who speaking for herself, wears Camouflage & Combat Boots.  Who learns strategies and gets inspiration from books written by people like Mack, Marcus Luttrell, -- Navy SEALS who are the best of the best and who know how to Never Quit.  You simply cannot surround yourself by people who have never boldly fought against anything, and expect to get from them strategies on how to win battles you simply must win!  You must instead learn a warrior's mentality from those who have used that to win their own wars, win your own, then mentor others in how to begin to fight and win their own.  Which is what the warrior mom's I have known have done for me, and it's what I seek to do for others. In doing that, we all collectively make a difference.  A great difference.  Huge.  I don't think any of that means I want to be seen as a bad-ass.  I do strive to find that balance of grace and gumption.  But make no mistake, when Madea needs to be unleashed, she will be unleashed.... 

All of the things shared below in a writing from many years back - describe how "Warrior Mom's" have had to look within themselves to conquer, so that they could then conquer all they must in the name of autism.  The courage, the commitment, the mentality that you are "Not Dead" and thus "Can't Quit" until the job is done.  We have had to start with ourselves in finding our own voice before we could ever be the voice of our child.  And by mastering that war within ourselves, we have made the greatest difference in our child's world.  I just love that. Thank you Mack and your "NDCQ" mentality!

A long while back, there was an opportunity for some Houston moms to participate in a photo shoot for the 'Autism Mother's' project in conjunction with Autism File magazine and the Autism One Conference.  They wanted pictures of Warrior Mom's who are fighting for their kids with autism.... Warrior Mom's who are making a difference in the war on autism.  So, I put out a call to Houston "Warrior Mom's" - asking them to come to the photo shoot. 
One particular mom replied that she would like to be there - she was excited about it... But then, a day or so later, I received this e-mail:

I thought about it and determined that I really am not qualified to be in the photo. I am not a leader in the Autism community at all. I'm still learning! :)

And that made me think the many things that make a mom, a warrior mom... And I came up with this answer....

A "Warrior Mom" is the mom who sat up late at night wondering why her child would not allow her to hold him, cuddle him. The mom who was scared each time her child screamed for no apparent reason and she didn't know why, there was nothing she could see that was wrong... It's the mom who tried to understand why her son was more fascinated with the ribbon on the present, than by the actual present. The mom trying to console an inconsolable child.

When you are there, in that stage, trying to figure out what is wrong with your precious child --  you don't think about who or what you are, you think about what your child needs and how you will get it.  And that in itself - makes you a warrior mom without you even knowing it.

When you are a mom with a child who is hurting from simple touch, not phased by hitting a wall, who can't talk and can't process too much stimuli at once without having a meltdown; - and you are going from doctor to doctor to try to get answers where there are none; oh baby -- you are so a warrior mom during those times when you were too busy to even realize it.

When you've gone to the Pediatrician's office and received a diagnosis when you knew something was not right with your child but you didn't know what that was - and it was called "Autism" - and you never heard that word before and your Pediatrician told you that there were no treatments and your child would most likely need lifelong care and possibly be institutionalized; --- and you thought that meant an "Institution" and not something like Harvard; - then you were a Warrior Mom in the making. Because even through the shock and stunned silence, something deep inside you was offended by those words, but not defeated by those words.

No, when you left that office and were more confused than when you went in perhaps, it just made you a more powerful and potent warrior mom to be. Whether stubborness, defiance, obstinance, or just sheer pissed off'ness, --- you had an instinct to not accept that. An instinct to look further, do more, - defy..

All qualities of a Warrior Mom.

When you found a treatment and your insurance refused to cover it and you were on hold, and pushing buttons into oblivion and cursing at the computerized mechanical voice that is apologizing to you for not understanding your human voice; and you've managed to get through to a live person who told you that you needed to call another number -- all while your child was creating a poop mosaic on the floor and wall -- honey -- you were not just a warrior mom - but you were a saint. One that may have needed to go to confession after the phone call; but a warrior-mom-saint no less.

If when your child entered school and at the ARD meeting they wanted to put him in a room in a corner of the building with no aide and no real program, and you sat there in stunned silence in the ARD with whiplash wondering what just happened; -- then you were a warrior mom who was severely underestimated at that ARD committee meeting. You were a mom caught off guard that they should have been afraid of, very afraid of. Because once you went back home and talked to your other warrior mom friends - when none of you even knew you were warrior moms - just moms helping each other; ---- and then went back to that ARD either by yourself or with recruits, demanding more for your child, knowing that there was more for your child, knowing that your child COULD do more, well, --- that was a very warrior mom thing to do. That school may not have exactly referred to you as a warrior mom -- but they knew you were a mom not to be messed with.
And they were right.  You do not mess with warrior moms.

If you do all of that, none of that, some of that, or more than that - you are a warrior mom.  If you don't even have time for yourself, but yet find time to spend in helping other moms on the internet late at night when no one notices, - you are a warrior mom.  If you are called to rally and can - you are a warrior mom. If you are called to lead support groups and organizations and do, you are a warrior mom. If your only calling is to make sure your child has his GFCF lunch for school - you are a warrior mom.

There is no status or ranking or stardom in being a warrior mom.  It's not a hip clique that you fumble over yourself wanting to be a part of.  To be a warrior mom takes more guts than you ever wanted to have, and it takes a humbleness and selflessness that you were not wired to have, in receiving no glory from others in celebration of the daily battles you and your child must fight fiercely to win.  Put simply, if you have a child with autism and you refuse to believe its a life sentence of doom and gloom - then you are a warrior mom.

If you are a mom with a husband and you are daily beating the odds of divorce from the stress, you are a warrior mom.  If you are a single mom raising a child with autism - I'm not sure if even warrior mom is a good enough kind of mom to describe you.

Warrior moms are called by the echoes they sense but can't hear, of those who have gone before them, to continue the battle for those who might have to come after them.

So, Moms and Mums.... hear this echo loud and clear...  No celebrity mom, no matter how helpful, appreciated, giving, vocal, or how-in-the-hell-do-you-stay-that-small-gorgeous, is any more a warrior mom than you!  If you are a mom and stood up for your child for something - you are a warrior mom and you best be damn proud of that.  Because even if the only person you ever lead is your child - that is leadership enough to qualify you to be a warrior mom.

You don't have to be on the news, in the paper, have a book, rally in Washington, or be a star in Hollywood to be a Warrior Mom.  You just have to be a mom of a child with autism, or any other disability, and love them and believe in them and do the best you can for them.... Not the best anyone else can do, but the best YOU can do.

With autism numbers now at 1 in 88, we need more Warrior Mom's than ever fighting the war on autism.  We don't need them camouflaged to fit in and not cause a ruckus, we need them hoopin' & hollerin' to anyone who will listen.  And when we're told in reply that "Vaccinations are safe and do not cause autism" and other such false rubbish, we need to remember the words of Victoria Beck who said long ago, "Even if a million people believe in a stupid idea, it's still a stupid idea." 

And on days when I just want to quit, I have to remember this quote: "When fighting a gorilla, you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla's tired."

That's the kind of warrior mom I want to be.  One who conquers fears.  One who's not stopped by stupid. One who is not dead and so can't quit.  One who was outnumbered by autism and ambushed by it on all sides, yet who hung on, never quit, and won.

I don't want to be who Shelley Reynolds was referring to in her Facebook status when she wrote, "Everyone's fussing, no one's fixing."

We must unite stronger than ever before and get to fixing.
1 in 88....and counting....are counting on us.

Please take a few moments to watch this powerful video of fellow Warrior Mom's:
Autism Mother's: The Final Cut

I cannot express what a privilege it is to be among such women, many of whom I have met.  Many more who I know only through the internet.  Many I will never know let alone meet.  Yet we're all connected.  All fighting the same fight for our children.  All with the same mentality that we will never quit until we win.  And because of that I know that someday, we will win.  Someday soon.