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Overcoming Motherhood Imposter Syndrome – The New York Times

My friend, a child psychologist who knew my son well, called me around that time. In a genuinely loving way she asked if she could ask me something hard. “Case, do you think maybe he’s autistic?” she said.

We got him tested. He wasn’t.

He was just sad, he told me. Just sad. Sad because Teddy pushed him. Because his tummy hurt. Because he felt angry. We read our favorite book, “When Sophie gets Angry,” about a girl who gets so angry at her little brother that she runs away into the woods. Then she climbs a tree and looks out at all below her and, the last page says, “The wide world comforts her. And Sophie isn’t angry anymore.”

I felt angry, too, and helpless. I jokingly told a few moms at his school that living with him was like living with an abusive alcoholic. “I’m terrified of him!” They didn’t seem to find it funny, and again I thought: I’m having a different experience than most moms are having.

I hated myself for the excuses my husband and I would make for our son. He didn’t get a good night’s sleep, his blood sugar’s low, he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, he’s a little shy, he’s a loner, he’s an indoor cat.

What really bothered me was not that this was his temperament — which really would have been fine if that was the case — but more that I wasn’t sure this was actually his temperament. Because a few times a day, my husband and I would see moments of wholehearted engagement and imagination.

He would yell, “Look, Mama!” so excited to share and connect over every new thing, his face shining with pride. And he was a comedian. He did pratfalls and copied our cadences for a laugh. And he impersonated inanimate objects, which is simply a good bit. “Mama, who dis?” he’d ask, then would freeze his face into a very stoic, distinctly sharp expression and with amazing timing, reply, “It’s a desk.”

We were left wondering which version of our child was his true self. And I was left wondering if I had somehow managed to dim his bright light. Soon he was 3, and the excuses I had been using to tide over my worry weren’t working as well.

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