Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seeking Validation

I was flipping through Parenting magazine at the gym, and instead of feeling educated or entertained, I just started getting pissed off. This magazine may be nice for the average mom, but it's mostly meaningless to my own parenting experience, and emphasizes how different my life is.

Some highlights from the July 2009 issue:

* A round-up of some of the more healthful kid snacks endorsed by cartoon characters.
Ryan doesn't care if Elmo is on a can of soup - it would probably disturb him, and certainly wouldn't make it any more likely that he would eat the soup.

* Kids' cute answers to the question "What do kids do better than adults?"
Oh, for the day Ryan is capable of answering a question. Two-year-old Claire and her answer, "Get a treat for pooping in the potty," just rubs salt in that wound.

* A round-up of frozen snacks kids love.
1) Ryan hates cold things in his mouth. 2) At least two of the five snacks on the page contain wheat, to which Ryan is allergic.

* Five meals ready in minutes
There's not a single one of them that Ryan would eat willingly, even if it were adapted to be wheat-free. Pasta? Steak? Eggs? Please.

* Deciding how far apart to space the births of your children.
This has nothing to do with autism, but it's still irrelevant to me, as I have never felt any desire to have more than one child. I felt ok just turning the page on this one.

* Homeless in the Suburbs
Now, this was a very important and interesting article, about the invisible world of homeless families. According to this article, some 40% of the homeless population is comprised of families, and "1.6 million, or 1 in 50, children in the United States experienced homelessness at least one day between 2005 and 2006." Chilling. Then I realized autism affects 1 in 150 children, which means there are three times more homeless kids walking around than there are autistic kids. And then I felt alone again.

* Genius Advice for Moms with Babies and Toddlers
There are many problems "solved" here that I am still looking forward to experiencing. One mom offers her solution for keeping her kids from taking off their jammies in the middle of the night; I look forward to the day I do not have to coach Ryan through each step of removing his clothes. A woman advises how to get your kid to stop talking non-stop. I'd like the run-on sentences to start now, please.

Women's magazines are often irrelevant to my experience as a woman - I don't wear makeup, I don't buy a new wardrobe every season, I don't think Robert Pattinson is cute - but I don't get upset about that; I just turn the page and move on. I'm comfortable enough with myself that I don't need to validate my life choices in that way.

But I do feel some sort of need for validation of my parenting experience. I need confirmation that there are other families like mine out there, dealing with the same challenges, familiar with the same alphabet soup language of IEP, CPSE, GFCF, SEIT that I've learned to speak. I want to be able to write a letter to an expert and have her give me advice on how to encourage my almost-four-year-old to use the verb "want." I want to read other spectrum moms' tales of triumph.

And I don't want to see any of those demoralizing milestone charts.

In other areas of my life, I've had time to develop my own sense of self, so I don't seek outside cues that I'm ok. I felt that way about parenting, too, until Ryan's diagnosis. I'm sure that eventually I will feel that comfortable with my PDD parenting as well, but now, I need outside validation to feel like I'm part of a community. Everyone wants to feel liked, loved, accepted, and included.

A quick Google search turned up a few eMagazines, some academic journal-ish publications, autism advocacy organizations' quarterly newsletters, and one promising-looking actual magazine whose online shop is currently down for maintenance (and which I might subscribe to even though it costs $6 per issue).

Perhaps the first step is to let my Parenting subscription lapse.

Update: I eventually subscribed to Autism Asperger Digest Magazine, and I love it!  Check it out!.


  1. I'm really not sure an average normal family exists - does it? We all have our challanges. Parenting magazine is terrible. It white washes everything. Well written Meredith, you are quite the writer.

  2. I love your blog Meredith (and I don't read many at all). I've been subscribing to Parenting for over 5 years, and I cannot wait until my subscription expires in Sept. I read the whole issue you read. The magazine changed a few months ago and there is zero content now. The only "article" was the homelessness story which I thought was really dumb for a whole host of other reasons. Whatever a child's strengths or challenges are, that magazine is now complete trash. Parents is still a useful rag where I can occasionally pick up some hints or entertainment. But I have just been so offended by Parenting lately that I really need to get a grip :). I KNOW HOW TO GIVE MY KID A SNACK. If there's ANYTHING I can get my kids to do it's have a freaken snack. Sorry.

  3. I read through every parent mag in existence when I was pregnant with my first. I always hated Parenting mag, but liked Parents magazine (they are different folks). I found Parents does a good job of addressing the everyday mom with children of all walks of life and every age. I found Parenting to have too much celebrity nonsense, designer mom crap, and lots of advertisements of useless things. painful to get through.

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Keep it civil, people.