Mother’s Day and Special Needs: Our daughter is upset that she will not be spending Mother’s Day with me. She can if she really wants to do that. I can drive up to her school in four hours. That is not the problem.
Ambivalence: What seems to be at work here is the issue of having two feelings about the same thing. Grey, as I have mentioned before in previous posts, is not an easy color for anyone. Having opposing feelings about an event, person, or purchase, creates havoc for a mind that cannot levitate easily between two choices. Our daughter has the opportunity to visit a science museum on Mother’s Day. Attracted by the world of science, from insects to stars, this is not something easily tossed aside. Despite the allure of the outing, and perhaps because of the buzz in the dorm, she feels that on Mother’s Day, she should be with her mom. However, though she called me to convey this conflict, and though I happily offered to come up and visit, she eschewed that choice. I can only conclude that she really wants to go to the science museum.
Training for Grey: In years past, this intersection would have devolved into some serious acting out. Torn between opposing options, our daughter would have engaged the family in a debacle that would not resolve itself, except by exhaustion, hers, ours and anyone watching. However, through painstaking training by skilled facilitators, educators, social workers and counselors over many years, our daughter has learned that you can have two feelings about the same thing. You can want to see your mom, and you can want to go to the museum with your friends. Extraordinary training. Finding consolation in knowing that one can choose a desired option, while still retaining some yearning for the option forsaken; this is OK, acceptable, a norm. Our daughter can say, “I am sad that I won’t see you but it is OK because I will see you in June.” And I am going to the science museum.
Learned Maturity: Often when I listen to our daughter I think, I can learn so much from her. It will be a happy Mother’s Day. How many moms can say that their child has the tools to reconcile opposing desires, comfortably?
Moral to The Story: Weathering emotional conflict can be taught to our children. The lesson of special education, at its best, is that our children learn to use their emotions and cognition to enhance social and personal interaction. Imagine a curriculum for second grade, fifth grade, eighth grade and tenth grade: resolving conflicting emotions, one day at a time.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011