You Have What it Takes to Be Your Kids’ Mom

yourkidsmom2

I’ve had two articles bumping around in my head for a couple of weeks. One is well from the UK Daily Mail, an article in which Gillian, the mother of Stephen, a 47-year-old man with Down syndrome states unapologetically that she wishes he had never been born. The other is this one by my friend Jeannett in which she says she hopes her daughter with cerebral palsy and epilepsy never hears any pregnant woman say “as long as it’s healthy” while she rubs her belly. If her daughter hears this, she wonders, will she think herself unwanted, unworthy, or less because she isn’t “healthy”? Will she wonder if her mother thought for one second that she could trade her for a healthy child? This is just about Jeannett’s greatest nightmare. Because unlike Gillian, she rejoiced in the baby she gave birth to – disability and all.

So these two opposing posts are rattling around in my mom-heart. I posted a link on my Facebook profile to the Daily Mail article where Gillian recounts how her son with Down syndrome has basically ruined her life, and how she wishes he had never existed, and someone commented on my post, “That’s so sad, but I don’t think I am very well equipped to raise a special needs child.” (This is a paraphrase, and I should note, the person who wrote that comment does not have children.) But she is correct. She’s not equipped. Because she doesn’t have such a child. If she had a special needs child, and was willing to accept this gift from God, then she would become equipped real quick-like. Because God doesn’t make mistakes. I firmly believe that He gives us the kids we are supposed to have and he gives us what we need to be their parents. Jeannett didn’t dream of one day having a child with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, but she does and she rocks her job as Jill’s mom LIKE A BOSS. She in uniquely equipped to be Jill’s mom, just like she is uniquely equipped to parent her three other “typical” children who each have and will have their own needs or problems that Jeannett will help them with along the way.

And listen. I did not think I was equipped to raise a child with significant developmental delays, to teach her, to work with her, to become an at-home speech and occupational therapist. But when my daughter was diagnosed with said delays, I got on it. And I learned, I learned fast. I had no idea what I was doing but I was willing. And you know what? God equipped me. All that was in there inside of me just waiting to be activated. He gave me a child who needed to be taught and he gave me the skills to teach her. Yes, she had therapists, but they told me what to do and I did it! And though we were told she’d need 3-4 years of therapy, and she graduated in just 18 months.

God gave me the child I was supposed to have and then he gave me the skills to give her what she needed. It is that simple.

When I read the article Gillian wrote, where she says if she could go back in time she would end her son’s life before he was born “in an instant”, I do not feel judgment. I have not walked in her shoes, but I have experienced thinking you have a “typical” child and then getting smacked in the face with the reality that you do not. I feel sadness for Gillian. I am just so, so, sad for her. Because she could have chosen to accept her sweet boy and be the best mom for him, but instead as she says in her own words, she never came to terms with his disability.

I do not think she ever saw him as anything but a mistake. And I think she missed out on a lot. (Side note: please go read the article. It’s pretty chilling, and I don’t want you to think I am attacking some poor misunterstood mom.)

Listen, mamas. All our kids will have some sort of issue. Some may struggle academically, others behaviorally, some may sail through their school and teen years and then have trouble functioning as a young adult. Some of your daughters may struggle as young mothers. Listen, listen, listen: whatever your child needs at any stage, you can give it to them. I am not saying you can magically become a surgeon if they need an operation, but you can offer emotional and physical support and guidance. You can be THE MOM they need at that exact time.

You can do it, because they were born to you, and you were born for this.

One of the things that surprised me about motherhood was how so unnatural it is to me. I expected to be like a happy, glowing mom in a detergent ad, I guess, and…that’s not what happened. It is hard. All the sacrifice is hard. And I am selfish. And yet…I think I am doing ok, because of this:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

This is the answer the apostle Paul got  back from God when he was begging him to take away an affliction that he could not handle. It is the answer I get back when I think I cannot meet the constantly-changing needs of three different children at the same time. It is the answer that has proved true time and time again.

When I am weak, I am strong. I am naturally weak at mothering. But God makes me strong and equips me for the task.

Mamas, you have what it takes to be YOUR kids’ mom. They are yours, and you are theirs, for a reason.

Photo Credit: man’s pic via Compfightcc Text added by author.

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5 Reasons I’m Glad I’m Done Having Kids

Before I had kids, I thought I wanted five kids. After I had one, I thought, “maybe three”. After I had two, I thought “Remember when I only had one? THAT WAS AWESOME.” Just kidding (sort of), I really thought, “Two’s good.” And then, well, we went away without kids for our 10th anniversary, and…we ended up bringing one back with us. And make no mistake,  I am so glad we did. But I am also so glad we are not having any more. I got my tubes tied on the operating table when I had a c-section with baby #3 and I’ve not regretted it for one single second. Our family is complete and it feels great. And so does never having to have ankles the size of a California Redwood ever again. Which I think is a great segue into my 5 reasons I’m glad I’m done having kids.

1) I can’t seem to pop them out the right way, and major abdominal surgery three times in seven years was puh-lenty. Especially that first time when I got a paralyzed bowel and it hurt worse than labor, and that third time when my magic pain ball medicine they gave me after surgery DIDN’T WORK and the nurse didn’t believe me and I just wanted to die for a couple days. Pass.

2) My three wonderful, awesome, amazing kids have stretched me to my limit. Even though the older two are capable of doing lots of self-care, there’s not a minute of the day when I don’t feel needed, pulled on, and tethered to them. And sometimes, I can’t hear “Hey Mom” one more time without losing it. It stands to reason that if I had another kid, I’d hear it one more time plus one more time. I guess what I’m trying to say is, a fourth kid would definitely get the shaft. Because I’m about tapped out. I’ve got really good friends who keep popping out babies with no signs of stopping and frankly it makes me feel rather inferior because I would love to be that maternal angel who just wants to have all the children her loins can produce and love them each perfectly, but I. Am. Not. And then sometimes I feel guilty about having three kids when some people struggle to have one, and I think, well, what is the right way to feel? I don’t know.

3) Playing host to a growing human being for 40 weeks (which, let’s be real, is more like 10 months than 9. Somebody sold us a big ol’ LIE.) is totally miraculous but SO not enjoyable to me. Especially when at about week five, the 24/7 Vomitpalooza gets going. I had morning sickness with my first baby and I had alldayeverydayforthenextsixteenweeks sickness with my other two. And this may surprise you, but after about two weeks, the “Let’s count how many times and in how many different places I threw up today” game gets old. So does running from your desk to the bathroom that’s really far down a long hallway at work while your co-workers take bets on whether you’re going to take it or not. Oh, and…I didn’t like anything else about being pregnant either. Except getting to keep the baby at the end.

4) My heart is in three equal pieces that walk around in three little bodies. I worry about my kids. I don’t let anxiety rule my life, but having and loving a child means taking a huge risk with your heart. I took that risk three times, so I have three times the mom fears. And I won’t lie, having two kids with developmental delays has taken a lot out of me. Having to worry and stress about their development wore me down to a degree…I think it’s a big part of the reason I consider myself tapped out.

5) I like being back to me. I know it sounds selfish, but I nursed my last two babies til they were two. It will be two years next month since I’ve been a nursing mama. I loved nursing my babies but I like the way I feel not having to share my body anymore. I like the fact that my hair no longer falls out faster than it could grow in and that I can wear real bras and drink large quantities of caffeine and take an aspirin without worrying about passing anything along to the kiddos. I like walking around in my own skin and having it be…my own. At this point in my life, it feels completely and totally right.

There you have it…some reasons why I am really happy to be a mom of three and only three. I realize not everyone has this choice, but I think my reasons for not having any more are pretty good…and totally “me”.

 

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When Your Children Hurt Your Feelings

Tuesday the big kids had an early dismissal. As a work from home mom, early dismissals are my kryptonite. What complicates things even more is that our school’s early dismissals are always on Tuesdays. At 1:00. Jonah has speech on Tuesdays. At 1:15.

I can’t get from school to speech in 15 minutes, so I have to make elaborate plans to get my kids taken care of on these days. Happily, this past Tuesday, the mom we carpool with was able to take them to another friend’s house  nearby after school, where I could pick them up after speech at 2:15.

The big kids were SUPER excited to be going to their friend’s house. Win-win, right? I told them they would only be there about an hour, maybe a little less. I told them I would be there to pick them up about 2:15.

Speech ran a little late, so I actually arrived at 2:20. When I got there, I looked through the glass door and Joshua was sitting right there, 3 feet away from me on the couch, playing Minecraft or Terraria or something ridiculous like that with his buddy. He looked up and saw me and Jonah standing there.

The look on his face when he saw me was pure disgust.

It reminded me of that Michael Douglas line from “A Perfect Murder”. That’s not happiness to see me, is it?

I walked in the house, and immediately it started.

“Mom, why are you here already?”

“This is when I told you I’d be here.”

“Why can’t I stay?”

I offered up a few reasons. (Like, you know, maybe this family has plans and they need me to get my kids the heck out of their house.)

He had answers for all of them. Indignant, angry.

“I’m serious. WHY can’t I stay?” He  was so mad, so disrespectful. In front of his friend. I thanked God that his friend’s mom wasn’t in the room and I tried to control my anger. “Go get your sister.” I said in a low voice.

Sophie came into the room. “ALREADY???” she half-whined/half-yelled.

I calmly informed both kids that the needed to shut their mouths and get their shoes on or a serious punishment would follow. We made our exit. I was enraged and humiliated at their ungratefulness and about the disrespect they showed me in front of their friends.

When we got home, I sat them down on the couch, told them what they did wrong and what their punishment would be.  I had tears in my eyes and I explained to them how their treatment of me made me feel. So much wailing ensued. Wailing but no apologies. I sent them away from my presence. I was exhausted. Exhausted from being hurt by them, exhausted from having to control myself. Because let me tell you: screaming and yelling and hitting are not the right choices, but they are cathartic. Controlling yourself? Is exhausting.

Great angst ensued in the house. Eventually, a couple hours later, each came to me separately and apologized. Forgiveness was extended, though no clemency from punishment. But the rest of my day was shot. I often respond to emotional stress in a physical way, and I. Was. Spent. Just exhausted. I know I’ve used that word ad nauseum, but that’s what I was. Completely tapped out. I sat in my recliner with my laptop and tried to work and keep my eyes open.

Of course by the time Daddy came home at 7, all was cheerful. The kids found things to do and play within the confines of their punishment and decided life would go on. I made some coffee and tried to perk up. We had an ok evening.

But that look of disgust on Joshua’s face when he saw me played over and over in my mind. I guess I feel like neither of them was really sorry. I’m not ready to believe that next time will be any different. I guess we’ll see.

It’s just really tough when your kids hurt your feelings, and my skin is not so thick where they are concerned.

 

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