Thursday, March 09, 2006

one of those amazing moms

"Who's the gal with the little boy in the yellow shirt? I don't think I've met her."

"Oh, that's Jenny, she's one of those amazing moms. Her little guy is blind [deaf/autistic/brain-damaged/has cerebral palsy/leukemia/Down's Syndrome] and she is just so great with him. She takes him to his therapy and classes almost every day, and I know he has extra stuff they have to do at home to help him. She just has the sweetest spirit about her. I'm serious, I don't think I've ever heard her complain about it, and you can tell she just loves him so much.

"I could never do what she does."

I've heard this, in one form or another, countless times in my adult years. I've probably even said some version of it a time or two. You know the women I mean, the ones who continue to smile and encourage all the people who come through their orbit, shedding light and grace that seems to glow from within. The child in their arms or in the wheelchair or clinging to their hand only serves to accentuate the mother's maturity and joyful spirit. And they are amazing.

Yesterday I signed the consent forms so that my 3-year-old son could be assessed for autism. On some level, I knew it was coming. I've done enough research about his particular set of challenges that I knew autism was frequently the eventual diagnosis with kids like him. The Big Bad A-Word had been tossed around since the first evaluation when he was barely two, and it has always skulked in the corners of the conversations with his teachers and speech therapists. His teacher had seen the red flags and asked me for permission to go ahead with it, and I immediately agreed. Even if I hadn't suspected it myself, I trust her judgment and experience completely.

It was the right thing to do. I signed the papers, had the obligatory conversation with the teacher in which I smilingly answered that of course he could have the assessment and it would be all for the best, said good-bye to my little buddy, and closed the classroom door behind me. Then I cried for the next hour.

So here's my question: When do I get to be amazing?

These women appear to have been amazing from day one -- you know they must have bad days and times when they mourn the loss of what could have been, but you never see it. How did they get that way? Were they amazing already and that's why they were "blessed" with a "special" child? (Note to self: Never again use the words "blessed" and "special" with the parent of a disabled child.) Maybe they've been amazing since birth and it just happened to work out that way, no advance planning on anybody's part, just good luck.

Maybe it was in their prenatal vitamins -- dang it, I knew I shouldn't have gotten the generic brand. Or maybe when they had the ultrasound that told them their baby's spine was fused together, the technician hit an extra button that gave the moms a blast of particles that reconfigured their DNA and made them amazing. Or no, maybe it was in the epidural! (See, my friends were right, natural childbirth was a crazy idea.) Maybe some moms get a super-duper extra-special cocktail of drugs during delivery, and in addition to the pain medication, they get a dose of amazing injected right into their bloodstream.

I think it's actually more likely that they become amazing, though. It's the day-in and day-out of caring for a child with extra needs that builds up their tolerance for pain and exhaustion and vomit and crying, and after a while, things like petty arguments and the price of gas fade in importance. I suspect that the constant erosion of expectations and hopes and dreams eventually results in a visible bedrock of grace.

Do all the moms get it, though, or just the ones with really sick kids? What about me? I'm not amazing now. I'm tired and cranky and a little sleep-deprived. I eat too much chocolate, and I've been known to wake up with a minor headache that reminds me not to drink two screwdrivers after dinner. I read too many John Grisham novels when I should be doing laundry, and my kitchen floor is sticky a lot of the time. I get impatient with my kids. I tell them they have to go to bed, and then I get talked into fifteen more minutes. I'm not a bad mom, but I'm definitely not amazing.

When do I find out? Do you get a notification in the mail, or perhaps a light from above, letting you know that from now on, you're amazing? Can you apply for it? Is there a line to stand in? Does it help to have connections?

Oh. That's it, isn't it. It does help to have connections. But not those connections, not the kind on TV where if you know the right people you can do anything. It's the connections with my husband, my parents, my sister, my in-laws, my dearest friends. It's the support and wise advice of my beloved online mommy group, and the somewhat weirder collection of friends on my other online forums who make me laugh when I need it most. It's Peter's teacher and the incredible group of women who assist her, who remember his name and his likes and dislikes, and help him be everything he can become. It's the other moms in his class, the ones who also held a baby who wouldn't look into their eyes, who also set aside one more dream every few months. These are the ones who will hold me up and remind me that there are new dreams and new hopes to be found.

The truth is, though, I don't want to be amazing. I just want to be a normal mom, with a normal kid. And if saying that disqualifies me from being amazing, I guess I'm OK with that. I think I'd rather be real than amazing.


At 3/09/2006, Blogger Church Lady said...

Keep writing.


At 3/10/2006, Blogger Brent & Tricia Croom said...

Thank you for showing the world what a very real and amazing mom looks like. Don't underestimate yourself.
By the way Chocolate, John Grisham and screwdrivers are on the list of things that amazing moms must like!

I agree with Di. Keep writing


At 3/13/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love you darling! Mom

At 3/16/2006, Blogger Scott William Carter said...

Took a few minutes while feeding Calvin to catch up on your blog. Did you know it is technically possible to operate a laptop using only your nose? Anyway, just wanted to say great stuff here! I don't know about you, but I keep waiting for a mousy man in a white lab coat to show up at our door and say, "Congratulations, this has all been a test. Life isn't really this hard. We just wanted to see what you were capable of handling. You will now have an easy life." Ah, if only . . .

Start mailing out these essays if you haven't already. They definitely deserve a wider audience!

It was great seeing you and Michael the other day, by the way. Keep writing. You're an inspiration!



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