I think I'm in a really good place when it comes to raising my kids, specifically when it comes to raising a child who is "different". I will admit that having Aiden definitely threw me for a loop. I don't think any new mother ever really thinks about what they would do if they were surprised at birth with a complication, a rare sydnrome, or an illness. So when it happens, it hurts. It knocks you off your feet. And it makes you feel like you aren't sure how to stand back up.
But you see, I did.
I allowed myself to grieve. I selfishly worried how this would effect my life, the life that I had pictured so differently in my head. I educated myself and connected with others who knew what I was going through. I let friends and family help, and I let them stand back when they weren't sure what to do or say. I let guilt creep in more often than I care to admit - wondering if blame for Aiden's condition could somehow be pinpointed to something I did or did not do. I educated myself about his condition. I read books about children with special needs written by parents who honestly shared their hearts - the good parts and the dark parts. I began to understand how to process my feelings.
And despite all the times I was unhappy or fearful or scared - despite it all, my kids were loved unconditionally. That goes without saying.
I think it is an amazing thing to hear other mothers of kids with special needs say how wonderful their lives are. I couldn't agree more. Being a mother has made my life so rich and having a child with special needs has undoubtedly helped me become an even better version of myself. Through my children, I continue to learn and grow.
With that said, there is something so raw about raising children. Not only are you responsible for yourself, you are also the owner of another one's small little heart. I know I'm strong enough after all my years on this earth to handle my own heartaches. I am able to keep from coming unglued when sometimes I want to fall to pieces. I've proven that to myself. But when you start to see that it's this other little heart that you can't stop from hurting - stop from being hurt - that's what complicates things as a mother.
To say that we as parents have a great responsibility to teach our kids right from wrong is an understatement. I take that role very seriously. The hard part is knowing that you can't control other people's actions, words and how seriously they approach their role as a parent. When a little girl at the doctors office yesterday, about 7 years old, got in Aiden's face and said "Ewww - that baby is crazy", I immediately responded without skipping a beat, even though it was like a dagger to my heart. I said to her "No he is not, he's a happy little baby just like any other". She backed off a little, eyed him up and down then said again, "Well, his head is crazy". The mother (or maybe it was grandma or caregiver, not sure) along with the 3 other kids with them all heard this child's comment, yet did nothing. Didn't even acknowledge it. Instead, the 4 children continued to walk around my sweet 2 year old boy who thankfully was oblivious to their hurtful, misplaced words, checking him out as if he were some sort of exhibit on display.
I don't care if you are Mother Theresa, that is enough to make you want to do one or all of the following things: 1. Be nasty right back by saying something equally rude to the child, 2. Snatch your child up and remove him from the situation, 3. Burst into tears as your heart just breaks right in your chest.
I admit, I judged this child. And I judged her parent. I know kids often don't have filters. I know she may have been making an observation about the ways that Aiden looks different and she may not have had the sense (or vocabulary) to put it any other way. I know she didn't mean that he was "crazy" in the literal sense of the word. And I know I should have been able to have the right reaction, the right words to combat her negativity, the right actions to turn this situation into a positive learning experience. But I'm sorry, right then, in that moment, I hurt. And I will not make apologies for that.
Hurting for my child when he is too young to know is a burden I have. It is one that honestly, I wish I could continue when he is older. I would give anything to be able to take on his pain when comments like those hurt him in the future. But I know that I won't be able to do that. I must teach MY child right from wrong, to be accepting of differences (both his own and others) and to live his life to the fullest. And when he does get hurt from someone's mean-spirited remark, I will teach him that it's okay to feel upset, to be emotional. No matter how grand of a job I do raising my kids to be strong people, and how many times they brush things off and keep on going, there are bound to be times they are hurt by ignorance and superficial judgments. To think someone could ever be so strong and uneffected all the time is ridiculous. When those moments happen, I will let them cry, and sometimes, I will cry with them.
I will never judge another person's way of dealing with hurt - especially when it comes to their child. Some people can be positive and upbeat about it 100% of the time. Some get depressed and internalize their pain. Others even put up a good front at the time, then fall to pieces in private. There is no right or wrong way to handle these situations. I'm still learning too. Even now, I know there will be times when I have the right words at the exact moment I need them. Other times I may actually be too overwhelmed to speak at all. Either way, I know that I am doing my best and I will always find a way to move forward. For my kids.
In honor of this Mother's Day, I just want to say hats off to ALL moms.
Moms of 1 kid or 10 kids (or anywhere in between).
Moms who gave birth to their children.
Moms who lovingly adopted.
Moms of special needs kids.
And most of all, my mom. :)