Tonja Padgett

What a powerful story, sent in by Tonja Padgett.
Thank you for sharing your story about strength and hardships!

"Hi there, I'm pasting in something I wrote last year in February. I think it's important to shed light on the fact that sometimes what's best is also what's hardest and our decision to have our son in care is one that was very hard. But also when we were going through it there was nobody to talk to about it because it's something that's shrouded in shame. I think it's time to change that.

Here is my post,

In 2014 we made a very hard decision. One that I haven't shared with everyone in our life for various reasons. But for whatever reason it feels like the right time in our journey to do so now.

582 days.

It seems like only yesterday and much longer all at the same time.

582 days since our little boy has lived full time at home.
582 days since my heart was ripped from my chest and left with him all the way across town.

I read recently something about grief that perfectly describes how I'm still dealing with our decision;

'As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.'

We made a decision we thought we were years from making. We needed help. We could not keep our heads above water. We were all drowning. We didn't want us all to become casualties in the "battle" with autism. We didn't want resentments to grow, and fracture the very core of our family and the love we all share.

But along with this decision comes heartbreak and all consuming shame. "Why am I not strong enough?" "We are horrible parents" "I am so weak," just a few of the many things that went through our heads.

582 days later and there are still people in my life I haven't told. People who don't know Parker is living in his own house across town being looked after by people other than us.

Has it been perfect. Hell no. But was it the right thing to do? Absolutely. There is now joy in the time we are together (and there's A LOT of time together.) There's happiness and laughter where there was once frustration and anger.

By hiding behind my shame I haven't honoured the fact that we have some really incredible people in our lives now. People who take amazing care of Parker while respecting that we are still Mom and Dad, we make all the decisions, and nothing will change that. People who truly love Parker and look out for him 100%

With these amazing people in our corner we are able to be the very best version of our family that we can be. And I can't see any shame in that anymore. Yes I still have hard days when I battle with my feelings of regret and shame and sadness. But more often than not I'm just grateful that we were able to get the help we needed. The proof of our decision being the right one lies in Parker. He's happy, loving, growing by leaps and bounds. And he's still mommy's boy.

So I'm no longer hiding behind my guilt and shame. This is who we are as a family now and just because it doesn't look like everyone else's family, it doesn't make it any less loving, caring and strong.



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  • Teal

    Your article was heartbreaking yet so understandable. May I ask why you had to place him in another home? Thanks

  • Diane Osborne

    It is with heart broken feeling that I read your story. Must say that it is unfortunate that you went through all those feeling of guilt and shame, but what I see are gestures of parent’s unconditional love and courage. You love your son enough to give him the chance to be happy, which he now is. It is great that he remains mommy’s boy and although he is not under your roof, he is under your wing. I believe that irrelevant of the circumstances a good mother remains their child’s best love. It is good that even though he is being cared for by other people, you remain in constant contact with him and are able to still be part of his precious life. Hoping your story will make it easier for parents living with autism children to realize that decision although harsh and often best for the child even though not so easy for the parent. You did right Tonja, you put selfishness aside and thought of what was best for your son and it paid off.

    Hope to have a chance to chat soon
    Love, your cousin

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