When I was growing up, my mom would often say, “I can’t wait until you have kids of your own one day!” Usually, it was in reference to something I’d said or done that she couldn’t wait for me to experience from the other side. 😉 I just know I had all these grand ideas of how I would do things, how I wouldn’t do things, things I would and wouldn’t say, and how I would always be prepared with just the right answers for my children. (I think we all probably know where this is going…then I actually had kids!) 🙂
First of all, when you have multiple kids that happen to be born on the same day, it’s a good day when everyone has been bathed and fed! (We used to keep these little charts for the first month or so of the boys’ lives, just to keep up with who had been fed, changed, etc. I can’t promise that there weren’t days where one boy was mistaken for the other one, and fed twice!) By God’s grace, we survived those days and barely remember them now. One thing I do remember though, is the feeling I had every single morning when I woke up bright and early. I used to describe it as almost feeling like Christmas morning! I just couldn’t wait to see them, feed them, and dress them! They were the answer to countless prayers over many years, and I have been thankful every day since.
Another thing my mom would always say is, “You’ll understand when you have your own kids!” Boy, was she right. I’m not sure, but I think she meant one day I would understand how much you can love someone, unconditionally. I think she was talking about the times that you’re so proud of them, you feel like your heart could burst. I’m pretty sure she also meant that when someone or something hurts your children, you hurt more than they do. That you want to just be able to “fix” things that go wrong, but can’t. She must’ve known that I would understand how it feels to lie awake at night, wondering if I said or did the right thing in whatever the most recent difficult situation. Surely, she was referring to the times that you are so tired you can barely keep your eyes open, but your kids need help with something or just have something they want to share. I bet she wanted to tell me how difficult it is when you know that your child knows the right thing to do, but for whatever reason- they pick the wrong choice. She knew that even when you could not imagine loving another child as much as your first child(ren), you absolutely will. She would’ve told me that you feel so conflicted when you want to be several places at once, making sure each child feels important. I know she wanted to tell me how hard it is when you have to let your children learn the hard way sometimes. She knew that each day, you have to let go a little more. I’m sure those are just a few of the many things my mom was referring to when she told me that one day I would understand. After all, we haven’t even reached the teenage years! 😉
I don’t think when we had those conversations, my mom envisioned that one of the things I ‘had no idea’ about was what it would be like to raise a child with “special needs.” But, here we are! In my opinion, it’s very much the same and also very different than raising “typically developing” kids. It’s the same in that you love them as easily and unconditionally. It’s different in that you wonder if everyone else feels the same way. It’s the same in that you want them to reach their highest possible potential. It’s a little different when you might have to adjust your expectations, or at least be reasonable with them. It’s the same wanting them to be independent. It’s different when “independent” may not be entirely possible. Same is that you make sure each child has what he/she needs for school each day. Different is that this means cups with thickened milk, diapers, foot braces, and chewy necklaces instead of books and homework. And, it is absolutely the same that you want people to treat your children well. There’s nothing different at all about that.
I get just as excited for Lindsay to hold herself up on all fours as I do for Carter or Cason to meet one of their reading goals. I laugh just as hard when she’s destroyed her hair in thirty seconds after I’ve spent ten minutes fixing it, as I do when the boys say something hilarious. I ache for her when she’s having a rough week and can’t tell me why, just as I do when one of the boys is having a bad week and can tell me why.
I had no idea until I became a mother how many times I would change my mind, how many words I would eat, and how many ways I would be humbled by something one of my children said or did. I didn’t know that not only would I have to be their biggest advocate, but that I would also need to learn when to let things go. I had no clue how special it would be when Lindsay’s teacher practiced with her and had her “hand” me a Mother’s Day gift that she “made.” I didn’t know how much an unsolicited hug from my non-hugging son could make my day. I am surprised by how much fun it is when my other one decides we should just stop what we’re doing and dance. I didn’t know that it is possible to find joy no matter what, and that I can choose to find it every single day. Even on the days or weeks where it seems as if all I do is go back and forth from school to school to pick up a sick child and have about a hundred things I need to get done, I am just thankful that they need me. And, although I still cannot fathom how much our Heavenly Father loves us, the complex feelings I have for my children give me a tiny glimpse.
Being the mother to three unique, strong-willed individuals is rewarding, fun, hard, scary, exhausting, humbling, funny, frustrating, challenging, unexpected, and wonderful. Sometimes, all at the same time. I love every bit of it. That, I know.
Until next time…