Thanks, Brooke, for including me in your guest blogger project. I’ve loved reading others’ perspectives on motherhood!
I have actually begun four different posts now in an effort to define my thoughts on motherhood. I blame my inability to commit to a thought process on sleep deprivation. I will also blame it on my gray hair which seems to be increasing rapidly lately. I love being a mommy and I suppose fitting all my thoughts into one post is really challenging me!
I have two children. Will, age 3, is all boy with blue eyes and curly blond hair. He is active and into pirates and baseball and soccer. He loves to play pretend and dress up and I never know at any given moment which character I may be dealing with. He loves to eat fish and chocolate. He runs everywhere and never ceases to amaze me. He asks questions beyond his years and has the most contagious laugh. He also happens to be a quad congenital amputee. My daughter, Ellie, is 9 months. She cuddles and loves to eat. She also loves her doll and makes the most precious cooing noises while she sleeps. She squeals like no other and amazes me with her sense of contentment – despite often difficult circumstances. Ellie has a syndrome causing limited range of motion in her joints which results in a great deal of therapies and surgeries.
In many ways, my motherhood experience (so far – only 3.5 years in) is like everyone else’s. I worry about nutrition and sleep schedules. I visit preschools to determine the best school for our children and our family. I make playdates and I study discipline techniques. I’m sleep deprived most of the time. I try to find time for my husband and I around the schedule of a nursing baby. I run errands and cook dinner and try to just get the dishes done at some point during the day. I play outside. I play dolls with one hand while wielding a sword with the other.
But, as the mommy of two small children (age 3 and 9 months) who also happen to have different, unrelated physical disabilities, I find I am in a unique position of parenting. I schedule doctors appointments and therapies. I research and research and then I research some more. I study new techniques and proven methods. I keep an ongoing notepad of questions to ask specialists. We budget for surgeries and medical travel expenses. I’ve flown with my children for appointments more times than I can count. We’ve seen doctors all over Texas and in Boston. I have doctors and genetic counselors and therapists on my Christmas card list. I answer questions on a daily basis from curious children and adults about my children’s unique differences. I think about the what ifs for their future.
In parenting under some unique circumstances, I thought I might share some of what I’ve learned.
1. Just because you would never dare do something yourself doesn’t mean you don’t need to make a rule about it. If you have a boy, always assume they will try something that may seem totally illogical to you. Create rules and say them out loud. (Ie: I would never consider jumping naked off a fort. I wouldn’t dream of making a rule about this because I wouldn’t do it. A little boy would. Make the rule.)
2. Celebrate everything. I think I would take a lot more for granted if I didn’t have children with disabilities. One of the many blessings I’ve found is that we don’t take things for granted. I can vividly remember when my son first grabbed hair as an infant. This was not easy for someone with partial hands to accomplish. We celebrated! I can remember vividly when my daughter first rolled over. Again – a celebration! I’ve even been known to get cupcakes and hang a banner for milestones we’ve worked really hard on. I love that every seemingly little thing is a big deal in our family – we appreciate it more. I watched my child run on the beach today and I was overwhelmed with emotion as he runs – a child missing his feet yet he runs. I am so thankful.
(Sometimes, you might have to hide the celebration. Once, we were at a local restaurant with friends and for the first time ever, my son removed his clothes in the play area and took off running. Apparently, he was hot. Also, see point #1 – I didn’t have a rule for this. Now, I do. While I dressed him and explained that he can’t remove his clothes publically, inside I was screaming & dancing for joy as we had long been working on independently undressing himself. Clearly, this demonstrated he had mastered that skill! I hid that celebration! Even when he runs away from me and proceeds to get in trouble for that, inwardly I am so thankful that he can run!)
3. Throw out the books and let go of expectations of others. (Easier said (or typed) than done.) I have often struggled with other’s expectations of my children or of my parenting. I used to think I owed explanations when someone would ask me why my child was not yet doing whatever particular milestone they were concerned about. I used to cry a lot more (especially in the grocery store) when a nosy person would ask me about my child’s differences. I’ve learned that I don’t owe an explanation and that my child will accomplish what they need to on their timeline. Granted, we do therapy and see specialists to help them but I need to give them (& myself) the grace to accomplish things as they are able. Also, I’ve learned that the parenting books leave a lot out. They certainly don’t cover unique circumstances – like losing three months of infancy because your child is in a body cast or how to manage sleep schedules when you are constantly flying to see doctors. Throw out the books – seek wisdom & counsel from friends and family you trust and lean into the God who created your child.
4. Someone once suggested to us that the greatest testimony we could give our child during difficult circumstances was to show him how a marriage looks like in the face of pain. Everyone will endure pain. It’s part of life. Teach you children how to manage painful parts of life within a marriage by demonstrating this yourself. Focus on your marriage and your children will reap the benefits. I think it is so easy to be consumed by the demands of raising children and mothering and just trying to get the dishes done that we forget to spend (awake) time with our spouse. This is often a big struggle for me – the exhaustion of the day, the stress of appointments, the demands of a nursing baby, etc. But, when I consider the value of teaching my children about marriage, it helps me to reconstruct my priorities and focus on the man I love who gave me these precious babes.
5. I think my favorite parts of being a mommy are the little moments. They are the moments I don’t have videos of or pictures to remember them by. They are moments spent in the mornings cuddling in bed together. They are the funny things a child says that you can’t always remember later but you know you laughed so hard at. They are the moments of helping them brush teeth and go potty and get dressed. They are baths and how absolutely delicious a clean baby can smell. It’s the moments of smelling warm nap breath and feeling a warm cheek after you’ve awoken them. It’s singing silly songs and dancing in the kitchen together. It’s rocking and sometimes shedding a few tears as you rock and cuddle and realize it’s going by so quickly. It’s playing together. What better way to spend a day than sword fighting and digging in the dirt and reading stories and cuddling on the couch and racing cars and making pretend dinners and playing dress up? It’s saying yes to the boy who asks you to marry him and requests that you wear the pink princess dress he loves on you to the wedding. It’s nights like tonight when my son sang the lullabies back to me that I’ve sung to him since my pregnancy. It’s those late night cuddles when I can’t resist crawling in his bed just for a minute before I head to my own. It’s holding a baby so closely and knowing there is nothing in the world to compare to the feeling of a sleeping babe on your chest. I try to remember to memorize these fleeting moments. They are often so quick and even the routine ones won’t stay routine forever. I want to recall their smells and their sounds and their softness and every little thing about being their mommy. It’s so easy to get caught up in the demands and business of being a mother and then to miss the moments of being a mommy. It’s the greatest joy and privildge of my life. I don’t want to miss a single moment.
I’m only a few years into this journey. I have so much to learn and am often overwhelmed by the sheer joy of motherhood coupled with the enormous responsibility. I love blogs in that they offer a sense of camaraderie, a companionship as we figure out this whole mom thing together.
Thanks, Brooke, for sharing thoughts from so many moms and for including me!
Thanks, Brooke, for sharing thoughts from so many moms and for including me!