I hope that all the mothers in our lives got a chance to relax and enjoy the day. I know that is a pretty big hope and some were in the trenches because motherhood doesn’t always schedule vacations when the calendar says so. Neil was kind enough to take Alyssa to see family today and leave me to relax for a bit. While I had some time alone I started thinking about what it means to be Alyssa’s mom.
It means that every day there is someone who’s wants and needs come before my own. It means that every day when I wake I am held accountable for my own life as well as hers. It means that the life I knew before she entered our lives is gone. It means waking up when someone else needs you to… not when you want to. It means putting things on the back burner when she needs to be snuggled. It means I have to be able to prioritize so many facets of life that I had never considered. It means that I will field questions, concerns, etc every day. It means that I will have the opportunity of dealing with the judgment of strangers through a small child’s eyes. It means… a lot of things. However, I think that so often people think that being Alyssa’s mom means being a mom is a more challenging job for me than for many. The reality is that is simply not the case. Being Alyssa’s mom is no more challenging than being the mother of any child. The difference is that our challenges are more visible to the outsider’s eye. The difference is that our challenges require attention apart from “typical.”
I have lived, breathed and walked the path of “you only get what you can handle” with my husband for … well as long as I’ve known him. We all get dealt a different hand and somehow we all play the hand we are dealt. There are days when we’d all like to fold and get up from the table but somehow we manage to stay in the game. I will not deny that some days being a mom is enough to make me run crying from the building… OK I won’t even deny that some days it has been enough to make me run crying from the building. The fact of the matter is that nearly every mother feels that way at some point even if very few will admit it. We all get pushed to the edge, worn down, and otherwise made to feel that we need a break. It happens. To most all of us. The difference is what pushes us there. The things that push me there are, as I said prior, more visible to the outsider’s eye. The spitting up, the not keeping down meds, the fact my child cannot yet communicate her needs in words, etc. It is simple for someone to glance at a few moments of my life and think that I have it rough some days.
The sad part about it is that some people have it a whole lot harder but since their child is apparently “typical” their struggles are simpler for a stranger to overlook. The single mother juggling two kids and two jobs trying to land on her feet at the end of the day. Although, even she probably gets the “Oh. Honey. You do so much.” every once in a while. What about the stay-at-home mom of 4 who’s husband works 50 hours a week, expects an immaculate house, comes home upset if it isn’t, and believes that she should be able to handle all the housework herself since he provides for the family monetarily? What about the new mom who’s husband had to return to work and leave her with a colicky baby to work 12-hour shifts? What about the mom who has OCD and struggles daily chasing after the messes her child makes? One thing that each of these situations have in common is that their struggles are not visible to someone on the outside. Most of these moms can grin and bear it in public and no one will even notice that they are struggling to simply make it through the day. No one would ever assume that they were facing the challenges they were behind closed doors. It is easy to overlook how hard they have it.
Why am I going on huge tangents about imaginary mothering situations instead of blogging about my daughter’s day? Well, it’s just been on my mind lately. Our family’s problems and struggles are not any bigger than any other family. They are just different. Yes we have hard times but so does every family. People have told me many times that they don’t know how I do it… or even that they couldn’t do it. The reality? They could and they would… if they were in our position. Certainly we deal with more than our fair share of medical drama. Certainly we deal with more people trying to predict who our child will become. Certainly we deal with the struggle and worry that comes with affording all of the medical intervention. However, in trade for that we deal with far less of many other struggles of life. We are blessed in the fact that Neil is often home by 3 PM. I am blessed in the fact that my husband is grateful for the housework I do and willing to pick up the slack when I cannot keep up. We have two supportive families that were brought together when we married… something that very few people can say.
So, Alyssa isn’t typical…. nah…. that’s not even right. She’s not neurotypical but she’s pretty typical in a lot of ways. She does things on her timeline. She does the things she is supposed to do even if they are not the things that I necessarily want her to do at that moment. What kid doesn’t? She inevitably creates more work for me at the exact moment that I cannot take more. What kid doesn’t? She does things her own way and in her own time but the reality is she’s much like any other three-year old. The ways that she is different from typical that come to my mind are probably not the ones at the forefront of other people’s minds. For me the things that make her different are the things that make her amazing. She has an inherent ability to search out the joy in every situation. She can make complete strangers smile without saying a word. She brings amazing and empowering people into my life that otherwise may have never entered it. My daughter? … lights up every room she enters with a light that shines from a place of true and honest excitement and happiness like I have never seen. Sure… she has her struggles. However, she has never lived a life different from the one she is living now. She didn’t have anything taken away and she gains things every day. She didn’t used to be able to walk, talk, jump and run. To her? She just hasn’t done it yet. Will she do it all? I have no idea! I’d like to say yes or even have the confidence to say no. However, I know all too well that it is not my place to say. There are neurotypical kids every day who have their abilities taken away from them. There are people who live to 30 and get in an accident which renders them unable to do the things they once did. I can guarantee that their pediatrician never warned their parents that would happen. In so many ways we are so blessed that we began Alyssa’s life with so many professionals having such low expectations. Why? Well, at this point… even they have given up guessing who she will become.
So, for me being Alyssa’s mom means I was given the gift of knowing I’m not in control from the beginning of motherhood. I have been given the gift of knowing from the start that each milestone is an amazing accomplishment. I get to spend every day with a child who ignored the fact that people said she couldn’t and simply did. She has shown me that different does NOT mean bad. She has shown me a side of so many people that I wouldn’t have gotten to witness without her present. She taught me more before she spoke her first word than any one else could have taught me talking for a decade. So, for me? Being Alyssa’s mom means that I may never find the words to express how grateful I am that she is the person she is supposed to be instead of the person I wanted her to be. Some days are challenging… some are downright difficult and nearly unbearable. The good always finds a way to outweigh the bad and I know with her smile in our lives… that will continue!