I’ve learned many lessons raising my children. I’ve learned what it takes to raise typical children thanks to my girls and I’ve learned what it takes to raise, advocate for, and not take shit from anyone while raising my son. I know most parents of special needs children can relate. I’m personally friends with other moms who have had the same experience raising their kids as I have. Having one foot in the special needs world and the other in the typical child world. I also know many moms who did not continue to have children for whatever their reasons after learning their child was special needs. There is no “right” way. I personally can’t imagine life without my girls just the way parents without other children can’t imagine life with additional children.
We all have moments as parents that stick out in our memories more than others. Sometimes they’re happy moments, sometimes not so happy. Aside from the actual births of each of my children I have defining moments as a parent that have shaped me into the adult I am. Those moments do not end at age 18 when our kids are technically adults. I’m still learning about being a parent and growing as a person.
I learned to begin to advocate for my son when he and I were both “young”. Thomas was 6 months old and I was 26 years old. If I didn’t open my mouth and say what I felt was wrong for him who would? Being my son’s advocate taught me to not be judgmental, that it was ok to cry and it was ok to ask for help among other life lessons. I also learned to speak softly some of the times and very loudly some of the times. I knew my child, he was mine and no one could tell me different. Was I hard headed? Yes. Was I correct most of the time? I know most parents of special needs children are battle scarred. And we all have war stories. Some more intense than others, but nonetheless we had to fight for what we knew was right at the time.
My girls taught me to slow down and appreciate the small moments because they do become big moments. They taught me that just because they were typical children people weren’t always going to be “nice” and they needed an advocate just much as their brother. Alyssa, our oldest girl; the one who introduced us as parents to the typical world paved the way for her younger sisters. Lelly taught me to laugh with my kids when they were young and she still makes me laugh like no one other than my husband. She also taught me it was ok to grieve a bit when she moved out. I was so very sad to see her leave. I would say as sad as I was to see Alyssa move out after she married Sam. But with Alyssa it was different. More like a progression; dating then engaged, bridal shower, wedding; moved out.
When it came to my Lelly she did everything early. She arrived perfectly on time at birth but after that she walked early, ran early, rode a tricycle early, and later on graduated high school early, then graduated college early. She wanted to start her life. Tommy and I returned from vacation this past summer to the news that Lelly had an apartment, roommate and move in date. Omg I cried when Tommy and I moved her in to her own place. I thought I would be okay but after looking at all her boxes full of her things I lost it. That was so hard.
My Sam is teaching me many other life lessons I can’t get into right now. She’s definitely her own person and I’m learning a whole host of life lessons from her. At 16 years of age she’s watched me with my older children. There are 5 years between her and Lelly, 8 years between her and Alyssa; so Sam has many traits of an only child. Right now it’s only Tommy, me and Sam living in a house that once held 6. That’s pretty foreign to Tommy and I who for years were used to a very full house. Sam has much more growing to do and as her mother I have more learning experiences ahead to keep up with her.
Life is not dull and I thank the Lord for all He has given me. Not only has God been by my side during the storms, He has also shown me the blue clearing skies when the storm is over. I’m thankful to Him for He has never, ever let me down.