One summer, when I was about six and attending day camp, a girl who was a few years older and eons cooler than I was, asked me whether my hair got darker when it was wet. Then, I was the shyest of shy, had few friends, and sported that kind of little-kid white-blonde hair that is usually only seen in the very young. Eager to please, I said “um. I dunno. Let’s go see!”
Sure that I’d found my pass to cool on the playground, we raced over to the water fountain, and climbed its rock-creek steps to wet my hair. I remember awkwardly leaning back, twisting, and holding my head under the too-cold water but I don’t remember whether my hair got darker or not. I know that after our experiment, I expected her to realize how fun and accommodating I was. Instead, she called a hasty “thanks!” over her shoulder and rejoined her friends.
Leaving me to study my wet is-it-darker-or-not hair alone.
Until she ran off, that was a moment when I felt seen, and important. Today, of course, I have better connections, and life surprises me with interactions that make me happyweep. I’m liked! At least some of the time, anyway.
Often, for most of us, feeling connected doesn’t even need the big things people say. The being seen happens during the times when we mention how psyched we are that our five-year old no longer wears diapers at night, and a friend says “Awesome!” rather than “Wait. He was still in diapers at night?!?!”
Those little affirmations are the ones that make us feel connected. Understood. I mean, God knows that too often, us moms (and dads) feel unseen and less-than appreciated, right? So, it’s nice. Those times when people make us feel seen and accepted are nice.
There’s an expression though. It’s one that I think goes both ways.
“Gosh! How do you do it?”
While at first, we may preen to have been recognized for obviously having the awesomest of superpowers, and for holding our shit mostly almost all-the-way together, it’s really kind of a dumb thing to say.
Because, eventually, or right then, we remember that we’re totally not superheros in the sense that should make anybody else, you know, admire us and stuff because we’re wearing mismatched socks, save three minutes of sleep each morning knowing that yoga and sweat pants require no underwear (and if you wear underwear beneath your sweats or yoga pants – please tell me why it’s wrong not to???) and that most of the time, when we think we’re dealing, we probably cut some corners, somewhere. Some days, we maybe probably cut a lot of them.
When it comes to the whole “How do you do it?” question, I’d first personally heard it as it related to me, dealing with the news that my son has developmental delays and probably autism. I have had to advocate, teach, learn ABA therapy to help him to keep his hands to himself, and to speak rather than gesture. Some of that’s behind us now, and I’m learning new things to help him to socialize appropriately (as in kissing your friends is maybe a bit unexpected).
How do I do it? I don’t know. I just do… ya know?
Same as you.
The same way that all of us just do. We just. We do. Special needs mamas and regular mamas, all of us are just doing and being and reacting and trying to find ways to balance and act rather than having to react so much. We’re called into our children’s rooms at 3am simply because somebody needs a hand to hold.
Sometimes, when our babies are sick, that person is us.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned through this whole regular mama-ing thing, and this whole special needs mama-ing thing, it’s that we’re more alike than different. That we’ve ALL been asked “How do you do it?” and may waver between saying “Well, I have a sitter for a few hours each week, when I’m able to have some alone time,” or “My husband/partner is pretty great about letting me sleep in one weekend day each month,” or “I’ve been really blessed with a great community…” and saying something more honest and real and not that the other stuff isn’t real but more along the lines of “I don’t! I’m not! I haven’t even pooped today!!!”
Here’s the deal. We DO get by because of these things but we also often get by without them. We all get by.
We all have more similar than not personal reality shows. Special needs, or not.
Take, for example, a recent text message exchange I had with one of my PAC mom friends. While I’ve taken some liberties, I haven’t strayed from the main message of her text.
We get by. Getting by is my personal reality show. It’s probably yours, too.
All of us. Regular moms and dads, special needs moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas and aunts and uncles and friends and all of the people are just getting by.
All of them are superheroes.
We’re all superheroes, people! YAY for us! We’re superheroes! Which also means we’re just regular, and we’re all just doing the do to hang in. Rumpled, unlaundered capes. Tucked accidentally into our pants. Or forgotten altogether. We’re still superheroes. All. Of. Us. Because we do the do. We get up. We do. We feel, and we love. We remember moments and forget them. We hang onto memories and forget to. We have toothpaste on our mirrors, and food on our floors. We’re doing it and doing it is all that matters.
Maybe, instead of wondering how somebody “does it,” we should just remember that we’re all awesome and horrible. We’re all flawed and perfect, all at once, every single day. Special needs moms and regular moms – this mom job thing is hard! It’s amazing. It’s frustrating and incredible and life-changing in all of the best and most ickyiest of ways. And really, that’s the point right? We’re more alike than different. That all of our reality shows would be that we’re more alike than different.
We’re all hanging in.
We’re all harboring hidden capes, mismatched socks, and love that makes us each enough.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday Post. Today’s sentence is “If they made a reality show about my life, it would be called…”
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