Years ago, when I was eight or nine years old, I read the words that parents will always love their children more than children love their parents. The realization that I meant more to my mom and dad than they meant to me immediately made me feel both treasured and guilty. I made a conscious effort to love them better and bigger, but – as happens with most young children’s intentions – my attempts were eventually forgotten, I focused on myself, and I attempted to make sure that they both knew that when I was a parent, I’d be way cooler and better than they were.
Surely, once I became a mother, I’d be the favorite one on the block. The mom that got it. The one who doesn’t worry unnecessarily, hover, or embarrass her son with in-public kisses or by licking her finger to remove a bit of breakfast from his face.
It feels nice to know that I had all of the parenting answers before becoming one myself. Remembering the certainty that I’d be the coolest mom ever feels like putting on an old college sweatshirt whose days weren’t that glory-filled even in the late 80’s. It feels good, and familiar, and provides comfort, but part of you has to wonder why you bought that ugly sweatshirt (or borrowed it and never returned it) in the first place.
Today, I’m a special needs parent and I worry.
I get that all parents worry. I also get that licking my finger to remove food from my son’s face before he boards the bus in the morning may feel embarrassingly awful to him, but is certainly less awful than me allowing him to show up at kindergarten with literal egg on his face would be.
Today, Tucker’s youth allows me to imagine that my guidance, support, and boundless love for him will help to smooth the pain he’ll face. Boo-boos are mended with kisses and bandaids, and the “It’s not fair!” injustices are mostly forgotten.
But what about the bigger stuff?
What do I do when my usual tricks to understand Tucker’s incomprehensible words fail? What do I do when we’re driving home, and my little boy says something that I can’t understand no matter how hard I try?
What do I do when my little boy tells me that he needs to go to the doctor so that the doctor can give his mouth a check-up, and fix it because something’s wrong when he tries to say his words?
It feels as if that’s a special needs worry. It feels bigger and scarier and less hopeful than the worries that other parents have.
And, in a lot of ways, it is.
Special needs parents deal with IEPs, therapies, health scares, too-large diapers, judgement from people who assume behaviors are due to bad parenting, and worries that no parent should ever have to experience. Some special needs parents need to create trusts so that their children will be cared for by somebody who might care once they’re gone. Some deal with much more difficult issues than most of us can imagine.
What if the worry part isn’t all that different?
What if ALL of our problems feel like special needs problems to us, in our own lives? What if we take a minute to remember that we’ve each and all stared at our ceilings, too late at night, convinced that we are broken? That other people must know what they’re doing way better than we do?
What if somebody we trusted promised us that whatever we feel within each moment is more alike what other people feel than different? What if I told you that the really cool popular mom has felt like a failure and a reject and that she’s just doing it all wrong?
I don’t have any data to back this idea up. In fact, I tentatively go to and from the bus stop each morning wondering if there’s something wrong with me because these other moms seem to find brainless chatter and camaraderie so much more easily than I do. Each morning, I rush away. I don’t liniger and I only tentatively reach out. Most of them don’t even know that I’m a special needs mom, so how much am I sharing? How many of my worries for my son are based on my own childhood insecurities and failures and dreams both forgotten and realized?
What if I told you that whether special needs is a part of the equation or not, that we all feel like freaks sometimes, and like The President of All The Things at others? What if you knew, without a doubt, that whatever thoughts are in your head at night – the worries and the triumphs, that you weren’t alone? What if?
I’m going to go ahead and say if.
I’m going to go so far as to say That.
I’m going to say that I will try to remember each night, once my son is in bed and I feel the weight of all of the undone things, forgotten tasks weighing on me, that the fact that I am an imperfect parent is okay, and that you feeling the same makes it even more so.
While the memory of my mother licking her finger to wipe forgotten breakfast from my face still disgusts me and makes me want to hide my face, me repeating her behavior is still better than my son entering school with literal egg on his face.
I mean what if? What if we’re all just…
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers and bloggers get together and each publish an ending to the week’s sentence. This weeks was “When my kids go to bed I…”
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Stephanie Mommy For Real