I wasn’t a “special mom”

21 Nov

People love to say “God gives special children to special people”.  It’s almost a requirement that those words fall out of your mouth as soon as someone says “My child has special needs.”

“OH!  You must be special too!”

I wasn’t special.

No, really, I wasn’t a special mom when I had Maura.  There wasn’t anything about me that ever even imagined life with a special needs child.  I never had any good intentions of having kids, then adopting a child with a syndrome or a need.  I never had any leanings towards the medical profession.  I entertained the idea of being a teacher for one semester – until I said to myself “OMG, I don’t want to teach! What am I thinking?”

When Maura was born, I had three other children.  Collin had just turned 7, Sean turned 5 two weeks before Maura’s birth, and Miriam was in a very precocious stage of 2 1/2.  I was a good mom – I think.  I was definitely creative.  But I was also overwhelmed and busy and disorganized and doing my best not to drown and take everyone with me.  Or as I called it back then, normal life.  Normal juggling of sippy cups and soccer practices and kindergarten snacks and laundry.

I had no clue I was supposed to be a special parent.  I was too busy trying to be a decent parent for that thought to enter my head.

And for the first fifteen months of Maura’s life, I was still that normal parent trying not to give her kids fodder for a future therapist, succeeding one day, failing the next, doing my best not to leave the house with baby poop on me.  All while enjoying those four little crazy people who I brought into the world.

I wasn’t a special person, not to the rest of the world.  Maybe to the kids and my husband, but to the world, I was just another mom.

Even after we started down the road to discovering there was more to Maura, I didn’t get the title of “Special Mom” – because Maura didn’t get the title of “Special Needs” for so long.  I wasn’t out being the warrior mom, kicking in doors and taking no prisoners until Maura got all she deserved in therapy.  No, I nodded and smiled my way through all the meetings through the sucky early Monday morning therapy spot that I knew wasn’t a good fit for my non-morning child, because that’s the time they could give us.  I didn’t fight, I didn’t argue, I didn’t question.  I didn’t know better – nor did anyone else.  When you’re working under the assumption of “She might catch up” coupled with no label, you don’t get a lot of convincing arguments as to why your child needs more.

Time went on, and things became clearer, and I learned how to navigate the world of developmental delays.  But I still didn’t feel “special” – Maura still wasn’t called “special”.  No one wanted to admit it to us until our neurologist answered our “Do you think she has something?” question with a blunt “Oh yes, she definitely has something!”

Finally, when Maura was three, I was given the permission to consider our situation “special”.

Even then, I had outsiders telling us that our situation wasn’t as special as their own, or ones they knew about.

I wonder what they think now?

“God doesn’t give you  more than you can handle!”

Well, it sure felt like it.  I spent all those critical early years of Maura’s life flailing about, being told I was over-reacting, being told there were no answers.  It was hard to listen to the voices telling me that I was doing well because there were so many negative voices around me.  When Maura had her first seizure, people started to take notice of our situation.  The naysayers stopped trying to deny the fact that our situation was, indeed, special.  I was finally able to say “My daughter has special needs.” and not feel like a fraud.  Somewhere between the time Maura was three, and when she was six, I went from trying to keep my head above water to learning how to kick ass and take names while doing it.

I didn’t start off as a special mom.  I had to earn that cape.

I still don’t think I’m that special of a mom sometimes.  I’m still disorganized and overwhelmed at times.  I will look back on Maura’s early years and with that bitch Hindsight, see all that I could have done better. It is still a bit jarring at times when I actually stop and think “I have a child with special needs.” It’s always a surprise when I try to figure out just how I ended up here, in this life, in this situation.

No, God didn’t give Maura to a special mom.  But I am glad God gave me Maura.  Maura carved me into that special mom.  The process hasn’t always been smooth, and the process has been painful at times. But these days, I can say that yes, I am a special mom, and I earned that title.  I earn that title every day.

 

she can't really read yet...but she loves books just the same.

 

 

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Maura’s ruining my resolve

20 Nov

I like Christmas.  I like it lots.  I have happy childhood memories of Christmas, of my grandfather convincing us he had Santa’s phone number and that he appeared in “A Visit From St. Nicholas” with Santa (“You know where they say “Then he turned with a jerk?  I’m the jerk!”).  But I am also a stickler about when Christmas really starts to happen here.

Oh sure, I will buy certain things before It’s Time, because at the rate the stores push holiday items, you’re forced to buy now or miss out.  Like Christmas lights.  I bought them all early last year, as we needed lights that didn’t have funky Irish plugs.  I felt a bit dumb buying them all early.  But as soon as Thanksgiving hit, it was a free-for-all death match in the light section.  This year, I bought wrapping paper already, in this pipe dream that I’ll actually start wrapping gifts before December 23rd.

But for the most part, I let Thanksgiving come first.  I have my little turkeys out, I still have my pumpkins out front and about the house.  I like Thanksgiving.  I want it to be its own holiday. I don’t do Black Friday.  I don’t listen to Christmas music early, or binge-watch Hallmark Channel for sappy holiday shows.  I let the holidays come in order – after Thanksgiving, I’ll start the Christmas decoration (I used to wait until it was officially December…but if I actually want to decorate and enjoy it, I have to start earlier, or else I’ll barely get the tree up.)

All that said…

It turns out Maura is mad for Christmas.

She didn’t get things like birthdays and holidays for so long, but in the past few years, she understands it more and more.  She adores Halloween – all the spooky and dress up and shows.  “The Nightmare Before Christmas” – aka “Spooky” – became a daily viewing in September.  Last year she watched Halloween cartoons well into the Christmas season.

This year?  She’s embraced the American attitude of “Christmas can’t start too soon”.  We’re already tired of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas.  And then, during a trip to Target yesterday, she gasped when she saw the Christmas section.  I’m pretty sure if she could have hauled a ten foot tree into the cart on her own, she would have.  She also wanted the pack of 500 shiny red ornaments and all the lights possible.

Did I tell her it was too soon?

Did I try to explain how Thanksgiving comes first?

Did I tell her she could just look, but we weren’t buying anything?

Do I look like that big of a meanie?

Nope.

I went into compromise mode.  We don’t need 500 shiny red glass ornaments.  I did point out the little package of tiny plastic shiny ornaments, which she found cool enough, and will fit on her little pink foil tree.  We also picked out a Frozen ornament, and some twinkle lights (because in my world, twinkle lights know no season).  I did talk her out of yet another little foil tree (she was all “Okay, so I have the pink one…fine…but there’s also a blue one…and a gold one…”  No kid.  You only get one little tree for your room.)

I totally caved at the 5-foot foil trees.  She thought they were awesome.  I can admit, when I saw them last year, I tried to figure out where we could put one, because I thought they were awesome too.  A green one followed us home.  Maura proudly hauled that box into the house, and insisted we set it up immediately.  Then spent the rest of the day carting it about the house to set up in different locations as she took the roll of wrapping paper from last Christmas and pretended to wrap things.  And then, she found her sister’s Christmas Sweater t-shirt from last year and put that on.

And so it begins, whether I like it or not.  Because sometimes, when something makes your child that happy, you cave a little.

When the teens arrived home, one looked at the Christmas stuff and asked “What gives?”

I said “Maura.”

“Oh.”

Yes, sometimes, when there’s a question, the only answer needed is “Maura.”  All is understood.

 

Elf on the Shelf made easy!

18 Nov

So I know many of you are debating, “Just how do I make Elf on the Shelf easy this year?” or maybe considering whether or not to start the new tradition of Elf of the Shelf.

Here’s my easy tips on how to make Elf on the Shelf fun for everyone!

Tip #1 – Don’t start.

Tip #2 – No, really, just don’t friggen do it.

Tip #3 – Seriously, get off Pinterest.  Don’t get sucked down that particular elfin rabbit hole.  Back away from the Target display of Elf on the Shelf crap.  Just don’t do it. We all survived without that bloody elf as kids.  Your kids will live without that creepy doll as well.

Tip #4 – Okay, really, ask yourself this – do you honestly need yet another thing to do during the holiday season?  I mean, we already have to make 497 teacher gifts from scratch to save money, go to 14 concerts, 8 holiday parties, and forget about all that last minute shopping and late night gift wrapping you will find yourself doing.  Do you really need to then have to come up with something “new and exciting” for that damn elf to do every night?  No.  No you don’t.  At night, you should be putting your feet up and having a glass of wine, not stringing the elf from the ceiling with marshmallow “bombs” floating around him. And then have to clean up after him every morning.  You really don’t have time for that.

Tip #5 – Enjoy your holiday season without that little pointed ear stalker.

And those are my fun and easy Elf on the Shelf tips.  If you still feel compelled to pull out your elf, may I suggest a set up like this?

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