This marks week four of Divine In The Daily’s 5-week guest post series titled Special Mamas! Every Wednesday in May, we’re honoring real-life mamas who have big hearts and stand bold and courageous in their unique mothering roles.
Three weeks ago, Jennifer Camp, blogger at You Are My Girls and mother of three from Northern California, kicked off our series with a guest post titled When Mothers Cry Rescue.
Two weeks ago, Tamara, mother of seven, was honored with a family photo session and beautiful tribute from her husband and children in this post!
And last week, MNAutismMom, shared anonymously about the joys and challenges of raising her five-year-old son who has autism in this post.
This week, we continue the series with a guest post from my husband’s cousin, Jennifer! I met Jennifer almost 18 years ago. She is kind, loving, beautiful, and genuine. Anyone who has seen Jennifer around children knows she has a special fondness for them. I invited Jennifer to guest post as part of this series because I want to acknowledge the commitment she’s made to children in her life, and honor her special role as foster mom. Jennifer and her husband, Brian, have the great fortune of providing children stability in the midst of instability.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom.
I was lucky to grow up in a family where my mom was able to stay at home with us kids while dad worked and provided for the family. Mom set the example of being a good, kind, fun, and loving mom. Her songs were endless, her cooking plentiful, and her love, never ending. I suppose it was because of her and the fact I loved children that I wanted to grow up and be a mom.
So I began this “mom” journey with babysitting. My first clients were my three cousins, Seth, Stephen, and Jacob. I had to be 12-years-old in order to babysit, and I couldn’t wait. I made $1.25 an hour for three kids and loved working four hours so I’d get a five dollar bill. I was a good babysitter. I entertained them with my musical abilities, knew enough to cover the TV screen when Charo from Love Boat came out in her skimpy bikini top, cleaned and did dishes, and often gave too much ice cream. Basically, I was playing house and I loved it!
As I got older I still loved to babysit. My jobs out of high school mostly involved children. I worked at the YMCA, taught swimming lessons, and worked in the nursery. I was a camp counselor at an overnight camp, and did a few summers as a day camp counselor.
My goal, my dream, was to be married by the time I was 19 and then we’d have children. I didn’t know then, that at age 44, I would still not have children. I was expecting things to work the old traditional way – meet someone, get married, and then have kids. Well, I didn’t have boyfriends in high school and didn’t date after high school either, so meeting someone just wasn’t happening.
In my mid-twenties, my youngest brother got sick with leukemia, had a bone marrow transplant, and after five months in the hospital, died. This event, this illness, this death, and the impact it had on me and my family was overwhelming. As I look back on it, I feel like I lost a lot of years. Much of my free time was spent with my grieving parents keeping them company. Seven years after my brother died, my father died. Life got worse for me before it got better.
What was extremely hard for me during all these years was not having someone to share my life, my love, and hurt with. I felt so alone. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t help me find someone to share my life with when a mate and children is what I wanted more than anything.
During those years lost, I didn’t give that much thought to children, as I was so consumed with everything else. Then in my early 30s, I had my first boyfriend. Yes, it was THAT long! One day, he made a comment that “our grandkids would be running all over the house.” I was somewhat dumbfounded. I had never thought about having grandchildren. I hadn’t even had kids yet! That boyfriend didn’t last long, but the spark for kids was ignited within me again.
I had made a decision. I called my local county social services department and inquired about foster care. After several months of trainings and meetings, I became a licensed foster parent and it wasn’t long before I got my first call to take in a child. One child turned into two children, a brother and sister, ages 10 and 11, and since it was school break for them, I got the class guinea pig as well. There it was, instant motherhood! It was great. I got to cook for them, talk with them, play with them, and even tuck them in, then they’d wake up and I’d repeat. These kids were good kids – fun, friendly and yes, somewhat scared. They’d never been in foster care before and were careful to not share too much. Fortunately, their mom was decent and had just made a bad choice, so the kids were with me for two weeks and then went back to their mother.
Next, I had two brothers, ages six and seven. One quiet and reserved, the other a constant talker, dancer and singer. These two children came to me with 11 articles of clothing between the two of them. I took them shopping a couple days later and bought them Batman Underoos. One of my greatest memories was seeing the joy of these two freshly bathed boys running around the living room and dining room pretending they were Batman, wearing their black t-shirts with Batman emblems on the chest and undies with thick yellow trim. They’d get up on the couch, give a bounce and fly off. I didn’t even care they were jumping on the couch – this is what boys do, so fly Batman, fly! As cute as they were, they came with challenges too. The younger Batman would constantly turn the dimmer light in the dining room on then off, on then off. Forget chasing him, because he was younger and faster and kept changing his direction, so I looked ridiculous chasing a six-year-old around a table. (How many of you have done this?)
I’ve had green olives tossed in my dining room, crayons dropped down my heater vents, and toys thrown against bedroom walls I’d spent hours painting and stenciling beautiful for the kids. I’ve had a teenager run away as I was showering and getting ready for a blind date. That’s a great date opener, “Hi! Nice to meet you! Um…sorry, but I have to call the cops and report a runaway.” We had a nice night, but with the police showing up, I didn’t hear from him again. There was screaming, hitting, biting, throwing, everything other kids probably do, and then “You’re not my mother.” “No I’m not, but I’m loving you as one right now.”
Many have said, “Oh, it’s so great you are doing foster care, how wonderful of you, you’re a saint, they are so lucky to have you.” But the truth is, I was and am lucky to have had them.
I got to celebrate a child’s 8th birthday! I was able to cook and bake for children, do their laundry, read to them, drive them to school, attend choir concerts, play games, teach them to swim, hug them and wipe their tears…all the things a real mom gets to do every day. I got to see Kat, a girl I had for respite care on weekends, grow in more ways than you can imagine – from hygiene, to school, to self-esteem. I got to see Cass, a girl who has been on her own since 16, maintain a job and pay rent, learn to cook for herself and actually clean her room. Both of these girls graduated from high school and Kat has done some college courses. I couldn’t be prouder.
While I still do not have children, I did meet a wonderful man, and Brian and I married the day after my 40th birthday. I knew if God was going to make me wait so long to find someone, he was going to be good man. And God didn’t disappoint!
After taking seven years off from foster care, Brian and I have become licensed together and can take in foster children again. We are excited about the journey of doing this together, having kids in our home and making memories. I’m trusting God will guide some children into our home so this can be their forever home. And perhaps one day, someone may truly call me “Mom.” Until then, I’m grateful for every hug and every hand I get to hold, and I’m happy to be their Special Mama for as long as I am needed.
This marks week three of Divine In The Daily’s 5-week guest post series titled Special Mamas! Every Wednesday in May, we’re honoring real-life mamas who have big hearts and stand bold and courageous in their unique mothering roles.
Two weeks ago, Jennifer Camp, blogger at You Are My Girls and mother of three from Northern California, kicked off our series with a guest post titled When Mothers Cry Rescue.
Last week, Tamara, mother of seven, was honored with a family photo session and beautiful tribute from her husband and children in this post!
This week, we continue the series with a guest post from the mama of a five-year-old boy who has autism. I met her three years ago and have followed her closely online since. Being a speech-language pathologist, I greatly admire the authenticity and bravery she demonstrates as she faces daily joys and challenges of raising a son with autism. I invited this mama to guest post anonymously because I wanted to grant her complete freedom to open her heart and share her journey without fear.
This mama once held a blog that was converted to a simple Facebook page called MNAutismMom. Click “Like” if you would like to follow her journey. If you have questions or comments for this mama, you are more than welcome to place a comment at the end of this blog post.
IN THE BEGINNING
Before I had my first and only son, I imagined that a baby was just one more thing on my “to-do” list.
After the exhausting activity of labor, I started to devour my baby books like I was cramming for some sort of exam. I was freaking out. I realized I didn’t know how to change a diaper and didn’t have a clue about a baby’s feeding schedule. I was happy to be naïve up until the day he was born, but I was unprepared for the test on June 13, 2007.
Of course, raising a child is not a test, but a non-stop life journey that has completely altered my world which has been just as hard as it has been good. And now I sound like a cliché. But, that’s the thing. He is a hard child to raise. Life is hard at times. My life had its challenges before this little boy entered the picture, but nothing other than my teaching degree prepared me for a moderately, classic form of autism in my son. And my teaching degree only helped me see the signs of his autism…nothing more.
Unlike most sane people, I did worry about autism before he was born (though I am learning that might not be as unusual as I thought, especially amongst teachers). I remember discussing these concerns with my mother and my friends.
My son didn’t hit any of his milestones on time and by 12 months I was pretty much convinced, but didn’t want to utter the word “autism” to the doctors in case I was wrong, in case I was inserting ideas into their head wrongly, in case I would be written off.
By 22 months, I had a team of people that created a 12+ page document confirming my fears and my Google searches. I cried. I grieved for years and my husband threw up on the side of Highway 494 the day we were told the diagnosis.
Sometimes people want to know how I knew so early. They don’t understand how I got him a diagnosis so early in life, but it’s not that hard to see when your child makes limited eye contact, finds light more interesting than people and isn’t doing most of what a typical child would do.
It really wasn’t hard to see his autism, but the people who didn’t want to see it, didn’t. Every single relationship was damaged and is still in repair. No one says anything appropriate to a special needs parent. My skin, so thin, my emotions transparent. I couldn’t hide my feelings. It was all I could think about initially.
It took me years to figure out that most people will not be able to handle conversations about autism in general (especially when you are grieving and initially finding out). For example, a neighbor would tell me how “normal” his behaviors were and I wouldn’t know to respond. I would read potty training books and my dad would tell me how I was worrying unnecessarily and that I had to learn how to just enjoy my baby. And my relationship with my sister was ultimately one of the most strained because she was always my soft place to fall before my child was born. I eventually just stopped talking to her about him if I could, resorting to only telling her the progress – you know, the good stuff and even that somehow hurt me. Her response? Something about how one day he might get to live in a group home. Wow, thanks.
Just writing this down makes me tear up. There are no social guidelines for telling people about a child’s autism diagnosis. Maybe they are in their own shock and can’t recognize the pain of the parent’s. And that’s the thing, it’s my pain, not my child’s. He doesn’t know he has autism. The pain is all in me. I don’t expect the world to know what to say, how to react, but I had to learn that the hard way.
Sometimes it’s actually the people you don’t know that will be your soft place. The applied behavior analysts (ABA), speech, occupational and physical therapists will be the most supportive, loving and understanding people in your adult life. And no one tells you that all of those other people you thought you knew, will have no idea what to say or do. There will be no casseroles for the grieving mothers and fathers. There will be little said that is appropriate or comforting.
And then, one day, you forgive them. The anger flows over and you realize they didn’t know better.
You learn who to trust.
You learn who to confront and when.
You learn who to let go of completely and move on.
Because he is YOUR CHILD. The one you have been called to love and nurture.
Words do hurt, but the child that people can’t see has special needs, WILL show them over time who he is and is not. And you learn to stop defending your point of view because unfortunately you no longer have to.
In a month, my baby turns 6. This is the first birthday that isn’t making me cringe. The other birthdays were so painful. A reminder of all the milestones he couldn’t accomplish yet. All of the hard work we had left ahead. The fear of the future. What does it all mean?
And as he leaves 5 behind, it was the hardest year to date. I realized at some point, that when he was first diagnosed it was about me. Completely selfish…my life and yes, his too. Autism = language and social deficits, distinct interest in very particular things that override the ability to work on and learn other skills.
When he was little he would hang on me. There was no independence. He recently stopped being fed by adults. He would fall apart, scream, and cry if he wasn’t getting what he wanted. Realize this isn’t a spoiled child, but a child that can’t regulate feelings, can’t communicate. I babied him and it wasn’t until the last 6 months that he started doing more and more on his own. Just this week, I observed him urinate without an adult standing over him and he’s even going without some prompting! It’s been 6 years of having a very dependent child. The years of not being able to make dinner or turn my back on him have just recently become past memories. Speech has finally crept in. He can now answer choice questions “do you want red or blue?” He pretends to talk on the phone and jabbers away despite it not being actual words yet. He amazes me.
But there is still another side we are currently dealing with on a daily basis, which is 5-years-old, the year of self-injury. Two plus years ago it started as a head nod. It wasn’t typical, but it wasn’t a problem either. Last spring it started in the car. He just decided he didn’t like our car rides to and from school and he started to head whip forward, causing a cracking sound.
The doctors didn’t agree – stim, tic? Does it matter? Does he need meds? We started to take him to a chiropractor for self-inflicted whiplash. We started him on medicine for kids with Tourettes, which didn’t work; we even changed his day therapy program to lessen the car ride.
Whiplash eventually led to face slapping, which intensified to the point the school was demanding we get additional supports at home. We were in over our head. “You need more for him, we can’t help you the way you need,” they said. The speech therapist initiated feeding therapy and cancelled it within a month due to his behaviors. It was out of control.
And right when it was over my ability to cope, I started to unravel. No control. Fears overwhelmed me. What happens to your child if you can’t deal? Christmas was painful. He continually hit himself. No logic. I got a nice chunk of time off for winter and it was horrible. Neurology appointments, another EEG, no answers. How do we live with a child that hits himself over and over again? It’s not painful to watch. It’s unbearable.
It all stopped on January 1.
Two months respite.
And then it was back.
And it got worse, but different. He got a cold or flu. It wasn’t a big deal as far as anyone could observe. It lasted 2 weeks. He lost 7-8 lbs. I thought watching my baby whip his head as hard as he could was intense, but the days he stopped eating were some of the hardest in my life. My husband and I snap at each other hard during these days. Everything holds together by a string. I go to work to forget my life at home is harder than I can handle. I email his school daily to see what approaches, interventions are working or are not. I would take him to the doctor 5 times in 2 weeks. No answers. Blood drawn, hospitalization around the corner, his little skeletal system showing so clearly. Could my son starve himself to death? Should I still be going into work? How long will this last?
And then it just hit me. Stop trying to give him his normal, preferred foods and get him kid approved junk food. And so I did. I gave him the choice of anything. He chose chocolate pudding and I fed him. I was victorious. He moved on to a Pop Tart, Little Debbie cakes, cookies, cake, and ice cream. He didn’t stop. He tried nearly half of the $100 worth of junk food I had just acquired from Target. After the second food, he was finally feeding himself without spitting or injuring himself.
And ever since then, he gained the weight back and we just remember those days as the hardest to date. Luckily for us, not a continuous issue. Just a strange detour on the journey.
WHAT I KNOW
I am relieved, but it’s not over. This new chapter of being 6-years-old begins with a new slew of therapists helping us outside of his normal therapy hours. His head bobbing has turned into a fist-to-chin; he is basically punching himself. His little chin is red and irritated from constant hitting. His knuckles are red too.
It’s painful to watch, and the complexity of this behavior is beyond a regular ole’ parent’s ability. I will make the sacrifices I need to within my marriage, career and social life if that means he can have a safe and happy life.
Autism has many lessons that are just as positive as they are hard. Not only did I learn early in his life that we only have so much control, but we also can’t take things for granted. The biggest lesson learned is how some children never learn to take care of themselves, dependent on others for bathroom needs, dressing and learning basic academic skills. Despite being a teacher, I have learned about a world of individuals I would have frankly not known to exist.
As I learned about these things, the fear grew. Would my child ever talk to us? Have friends? Make his own meals? Graduate from diapers? What if he lives with me forever? Have a job? What school will he go to?
How could I possibly care that my neighbor is going on and on about how her 2-year-old isn’t potty trained when she hasn’t noticed my 5-year-old standing there in a diaper? This is just a small thing. Rude, but forgivable. I want to scream ”BUT HE WILL BE POTTY TRAINED ONE DAY! What if my child never gets out of DIAPERS?”
But, that’s the thing. These things people say to me are just a small part of the bigger picture. I am worried endlessly with a list of what-ifs and those questions burned in my head. But some of the what-ifs and questions have been replaced with beauties I failed at the beginning to know were ahead.
No matter what my son accomplishes, when he accomplishes something I am AMAZED.
I didn’t know that when he first spoke a word it would feel like a MIRACLE. It wouldn’t be kind of cool. It wouldn’t be like – wow, that’s neat. It would feel like my mind was being blown and that it was all going to be ok.
When he walked up to the toilet for the first time this week, lifted the seat and urinated on his own without reinforcement or prompting – it was INSANE. There aren’t words for realizing your son might not live his teen and adult years in diapers.
When he learned how to navigate the You Tube app and play with a preferred toy without an adult it was AMAZING.
The day he stopped asking people to feed him (recently) was UNBELIEVABLE.
My son didn’t willingly crawl until he was 4. His first words were ABC and I love you. He can take his glasses on and off without help, and shows he understands what we say despite being able to speak conversationally. He calls me mommy, sometimes.
There is nothing on this earth that has ever given me joy like watching my son accomplish goals we wanted for him years ago. The lows may be low. They may be lower than non-special needs parents can comprehend or care to know. But I get a gift on the other side of this parenting journey that some will never understand too. For that, no matter how hard it might get, it sure makes those highs even higher. I do wish I could share what that feels like. And I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the chapters ahead.
I love you sweetheart.
This marks week two of Divine In The Daily’s 5-week guest post series titled Special Mamas! Every Wednesday in May, we’re honoring real-life mamas who have big hearts and stand bold and courageous in their unique mothering roles.
Last week, Jennifer Camp, blogger at You Are My Girls and mother of three from Northern California, kicked off our series with a guest post titled When Mothers Cry Rescue.
This week, the series continues with a post honoring a very special MAMA OF SEVEN, Tamara! I met Tamara and her lovely family three or four years ago. From the second I met Tamara, I recognized she was a treasure. It’s a rare occasion when a woman enters my life and I know without a doubt she could become a great friend if the circumstances were ripe – Tamara is that woman for me. Although circumstances haven’t been as ripe as I’d like, I’m not letting Tamara out of my sight. Tamara is a delight. She’s sweet, kind, gracious, loving, authentic, beautiful, relaxed, and so relatable.
Tamara is one busy mama with seven children in her care, so a standard guest post was NOT in order for this special mama! I teamed with my favorite photographer Jessica (previously featured in this post) who generously offered the family a complimentary family photo session, and asked Tamara’s husband to guide their older children in a writing exercise on “Why My Mom is Special.” So today, we present Tamara with this special Mother’s Day gift!
Elijah, age 13
I love my mom because she is thoughtful, caring, helpful and understanding. She is basically everything that is synonymous with the word “loving.” Sure she cooks our meals, helps us with our 123s, our ABCs and tucks us into bed at night, but it’s something else about her that makes her stand our from the rest; her complete selflessness. I cannot remember a time when my mom has done anything, said anything or worried about anything that had to do remotely with herself. Some days we ask her, “are you even going to eat?” because she typically forgets to make herself a plate of food in the hustle and bustle of preparing for all 8 of us. She also usually prepares so much food for us that her forgetting to take a plate is even more amplified because there is plenty left over to prevent us from saying things like, “I’m still hungry” any time soon. Another example of her selflessness is that she will clean up our pet’s excrement even though (myself included) we all vowed that if she would allow us to have a pet we would clean up after it. Yes, my mom is truly special and for that I am truly thankful, though some days I don’t appropriately show it.
Joshua, age 11
I love mama because she would take us to the apple orchard during the daytime to play on the hay bales and even when the corn maze was not open she would work to make it fun for us. She would always make us feel better when we didn’t make the baseball team. She would say “don’t worry, it will be fine; besides you will be able to better hone your skills on the not-as-good team.” On Christmas Day, she hid presents for me and surprised me with a bow-and-arrow set that I wanted, but didn’t think we had the money to get. She tells me the story of when I was born and had jaundice real bad and how she sat up with me all night while I wore the “light-blanket” until my kidneys began functioning normally. She lets me run outside in the woods and pretend that I’m hunting big animals and let’s me chase the wild turkey even though she knows I can’t catch them. She has always made sure I didn’t feel bad when my older brother got to go to a birthday party and I didn’t. She would say, “someday you’ll have just a good of friends your own age” and she was right.
Jeremiah, age 9
I like mama because she gives me a good book to read. I also like mama because when I say, “I’m bored” she gives me stuff to do. I also like that she gave a big effort to help me learn to read. When I started to learn cursive she bought me a cursive alphabet book that helped me get my letters facing the right way.
Isabella, age 8
I like mama because she let me help her bake a cake. I like mama because she let Micah, Savannah, Joshua, Jeremiah, Elijah and Daddy have a fire outside last Mother’s Day and last night. I like mama because she reads to me especially before bedtime. I like mama because she helped me not to be afraid of the dark when the train used to whistle by at night. I like mama because when it was my birthday she gave me a robe. I like mama because she gave me a calendar.
Dominica “Mina,” age 6
I like mama because she understands when I get in a bad mood. She helps me think about something else and do something else to “break out of my mood.” I also like that mama tells me to play whatever sport I want; even baseball with my brothers. She says that I can put my strong mind to whatever I want and I can do it.
Micah, age 4
I like mama because when I was in the hospital after having 4 seizures in one day she stayed with and never left me for 3 days and nights. She also allowed me to watch a lot of cartoon videos while I was in the hospital bed so I wouldn’t feel sad. She reads me bedtime stories before I go to bed even when it’s already later than my bedtime.
Savannah, age 2
I love mama because she lets me sleep in the same bed with her when daddy is working late at night or when I wake up and can’t sleep. Even though I kick her all night she still lets me sleep next to her. She never gets too mad when I scream even though my voice is louder than all of my brothers and sisters put together.
Maurice, age 51
Now almost 18 years ago, I saw this woman walk into our church and knew “she was the one,” and she has continued to be the one ever since. We are now almost 17 years down the road and I am still captivated and aggravated by her as ever (maybe that’s what it takes to make 17 years fly by like 4 or 5). Maybe it’s also the 7 live births we have had that make up our biggest blessing: our 7 children. It’s quite possible that they’ve had much to do with making this journey seem like it’s only getting started. I would “stalk” Tamara in the same way I did when we first met and hopefully she would still say “yes.” I want to be clear I am probably one of the more subtly difficult people to live with as the complexities of being married to me only surface once the “stage lights” dim. However, although I may still be a question mark in some minds, Tamara has still seemed to find a reason to allow me to remain and enjoy the best deal God ever offered me. I have seen her walk through highs and dramatic lows and yet she has worked to maintain both her faith and composure in a way that her closest friends marvel. I’m sure she could have done better than a guy like me, but it’s clear that I couldn’t have done better than a girl like her.
All photography in this post compliments of Jessica. If you are interested in hiring Jessica to photograph your family, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share Jessica’s contact information with you! Thank you Jessica for sharing your time and talents to photograph this beautiful family. I am so grateful.
Today, Divine In The Daily launches a 5-week guest post series titled Special Mamas! Every Wednesday in May, we’ll honor real-life mamas who have big hearts and stand bold and courageous in their unique mothering roles.
I’m delighted to kick off the Special Mamas series with a guest post from Jennifer. Jennifer is a sweet woman and one of many “soul sisters” I’ve found in the blogging community. I deeply admire the way she so humbly and gracefully speaks truth with words and videos on her blog. I invited Jennifer to be a part of this series because she has an incredible gift for sharing the depths of her HEART and SOUL for women.
Jennifer, voice finder and wife of a heart-warrior, in Northern California, mothers three children, writes Loop: What You Need to Know, and leads My Girls, a group where women gather to remember the truth of their identity, in God’s eyes. You can also find Jennifer writing at youaremygirls.com and connecting at You are My Girls Community, on Facebook. She would love to have you join her there.
She looks at me with eyes that plead. “Tell me . . . tell me I’m doing okay. I need to hear it, even if I can’t believe it.”
She feels like she runs around in circles all day. She chose to stay at home, knowing she should appreciate the choice, the opportunity. She wanted to stay close, love on her children, plunge full on into the privilege of shaping lives.
But it’s hard. And she doubts she has what it takes to do it well.
She fills out pages of applications for her son’s middle school. Her child’s potential success just ahead. Just ahead is beginning. Just ahead is opportunity. Just ahead is fulfillment. Just ahead.
She fills the afternoons with activities, play practice and karate, language class and piano, football and dance team. She provides her children with chances to learn—to be challenged, stimulated, curious about the world. Their success is her success. And all the running around and shuttling to and fro and being home for a few minutes before dinner time, to get homework done, is a good, full day.
She scoops up her newborn and sways, offering comfort in a weary arm curled ‘round, her baby’s nose nestled in the warmth of white t-shirt. A two-year old sleeps in the next room, one moment flowing into the next into the next. Time stretches on like a relay race ‘round a track, the baton never passed. Seemingly in circles. Seemingly never-ending.
This day. Just this day.
She is going on four hours of sleep but one thing she knows. This baby, this beloved, needs a mama’s heart pressed to her own. So she gives and she gives and she is weary.
Tell me, please, that I am doing okay.
We are mothers and there is one thing, above all, that we crave: Tell me, tell me . . . it is okay to not be okay. Tell me, tell me . . . it is okay to not be fine. Tell me, tell me . . . it is okay to feel like I don’t have what it takes. Tell me, tell me . . . it is okay if I am unsure and ill equipped and fed up and, sometimes, I feel, more than anything, that I just want to run away.
It is okay.
Because while we chase down what we hope is the very best life for our children, we, at our core, need rescue.
Rescue in the staying by our child, in the night, while tears stream down and the night terrors make him scream.
Rescue in the bending low to listen close, once again, as the girls at school don’t want her included, or the grades just aren’t measuring as high as they should.
Rescue in the feeling depleted and worn down and the uncertainty about how help, in this mothering business, will come.
Yes, let us be weary and weak while confident and strong. Let us be willing to be rescued.
We are mothers, and we hold our children close and we let them go. We are mothers, and we pour out love and fear and worry and hopes and everything we are. We are mothers, and we mother with a heart full and perfectly imperfect love when we allow ourselves to be loved, as a beloved, too.
Oh, mothers, let’s lay it down. Let’s lay down our need for control, our desire to be right, our quest to fill up our kids because we, ourselves, need to be filled. Let us be filled first, and let that be what overflows. Let us be filled first so we are strengthened in our weakness, emboldened to stay and rest rather than run. Let us be filled first so that in our being rescued we don’t run, we stay.
There is nothing like the stretching, the fear, the desperation filled with terror of unknowns as we parent. There is nothing like the vulnerability, the stretched-wide open heart, the beating, bleeding mess we become when the responsibility to mother well feels so heavy we feel we will surely break. We can barely manage to live lives of strength, fearlessness, confidence ourselves.
We often still feel like children and now we are entrusted to raise our own. We have hearts broken and healed, beating fast with expectation for what is around the corner. We love our children more than anyone could have ever explained to us is possible.
So we must remember that we have been rescued. And because we have been rescued we have what it takes to be in the right now for the someday. What if we were less focused on the somedays, the what-ifs, the fears and worries of raising our children? Could we then, possibly, slow down? Could we then, possibly love them in this present?
If we have been rescued from the burden of needing to have parenting all figured out, perhaps we are free to enter the right now with our children and love them from our own rescued, free heart?
As mothers, let’s accept the invitation to love in the right now.
Because we are rescued.
Because we are not alone.
Because loving in the right now does not mean rescuing our children, too.
I’ve grown to hate this picture.
I spent hours, maybe even days of that October, 2010, searching for the matching superman and superwoman costumes that now hang lifeless in our closet. We put them on, and it was oh so cute as my mother-in-law took our family picture, but later that night I felt the burden bear down on me hard as I walked in the doors of that adults only costume party.
You see, there was something about that costume that represented right where I was – fulfilling that role of superwoman, supermom, being everything to everyone, doing everything for everyone, being a hero to everyone but myself and my God. But that night, as I played the role of superwoman-supermom at that party, I became keenly aware it wasn’t working anymore. The room was filled with bar maids, vampires, sexy bunnies, and who knows what, but I didn’t feel sexy, I didn’t feel scandalous, I didn’t feel cunning, I didn’t feel clever, I didn’t feel cute, and I didn’t feel like superwoman-supermom either. To be honest, I felt like an out-of-place goodie-goodie girl scout who just wanted to hide away in a tent somewhere in obscurity.
And to make matters worse, I quickly discovered that not just one of my neighbors was pregnant, but three, and bless their souls, they were all there in their pregnant glowing glory. I had been battling this desire, this conflict in me for years, as to whether or not we should have a third child, but these women seemed to know so quickly, with such certainty, this destiny to parent was theirs. In the years that had passed since we had our first two children, I had seen the dark forces of this world, and I wasn’t so confident I could be that superwoman-supermom to raise another precious life safely through to the light.
So I left that party, hung the superhero costumes in the closet, and have since marked it as a turning point, a moment I needed to see the light, to see the truth about myself and who I wanted to be.
See, I don’t want to be superwoman. I don’t want to be a supermom. I CAN’T be. It’s impossible. It’s an unrealistic burden I don’t want to bear anymore.
Because a superwoman-supermom is a hero. She does it all, she’s brilliant, she’s clever, she has all the answers. She works full-time, loves her job and prides herself on doing what she needs to do; or she stays home full-time and has no longings for anything but tending her home, her husband, and her children. She buys all organic and prepares homemade dinner every night, she makes all the beds every morning, does a few loads of laundry every day so she’s always caught up, and dishes are stacked back on the shelves before bed. Oh, and her house is always clean
(her toilets are always sterile and pristine white). She wakes up happy every morning and makes a hearty breakfast for her children before sending them off to school; she packs the kids’ lunches with healthy choices so they can grown up big and strong. A superwoman-supermom? She knows how to parent just-right, she disciplines and her kids listen the first time, she runs for disinfectant and bandaids when her kids’ knees are bleeding, and her kids’ principal would never think of calling. She has lots of “besties,” she’s organizes girls’ night out religiously, and she exercises five times a week in stylish LuLu Lemon gear she bought the day it arrived in the store. She volunteers and she’s needed and people are desperate to get their hands on something, anything, she has to offer. She gives and never grows weary. She’s battery operated, like an energizer bunny, who just keeps going and going and going.
I can say with confidence that on most days I’ve tried hard to be that superhero, wanted desperately to be that supermom, envied that superwoman who embodies one or many of those qualities. And that’s just WRONG.
Since formally rejecting the superwoman-supermom notion and becoming pregnant with our third child five months after the above described Halloween incident, I’ve been in transformation. I’m ready to do life differently, ready to step out of the status quo box. I’m slowly, but surely taking off the cape and am stepping into the garments of the woman I was created to be. And through faith and experience, I believe the woman I am growing into is wise, she is grounded and values depth rather than breadth, she sees into souls, she knows what she is called to do and what she is not called to do, and she knows when she needs help.
See dear ones, we’re not superheroes. No, I’m coming to embrace a notion that’s just as controversial and discussion worthy as superwomen and supermoms, but makes more sense in my new reality of cape-free living. Yes, I believe there’s truth in the notion of princess.
Marriam-Webster online definition of princess:
2. a female member of a royal family; especially a daughter or granddaughter of a sovereign.
Here’s my premise – if I believe God is sovereign King, He knit me in my mother’s womb in His image, then I’m His daughter. Knowing this truth, I should have much more confidence as princess than I’ve ever had as superwoman-supermom.
Something rings true about this princess concept. Perhaps it’s why Disney has made millions capitalizing on princesses.
Cinderella had faith in her dreams, that “one day her rainbow [would] come.”
Ariel has “who’s its and what’s its galore,” but wanted more. She wished she could be “out of these waters,” “part of that world.”
Belle longed for something more than “this provincial life.” Immersed in stories about far off places, “behind the facade,” she was even perceived as peculiar.
And Rapunzel escaped the tower she had been trapped in all her life. She “[saw] the light,” “the fog was lifted,” and the “whole world was somehow shifted.”
There’s something deeper, something better we women, we moms long for. We want to be authentic, we want to be honest and real. We want to be known. We want to be loved and cherished, and we want to know we are beautiful. We want to be mamas that make a difference, we want to grow souls that thrive and find their special place in this world. We want to be beautiful examples of grace and truth for our children. We want to escape the superhero cape, step into garments designed especially for us, and dance in the beauty of our true life purpose.
So two days from now, I’m launching a series titled “Special Mamas” in honor of women who want to be mamas and women who are mamas. In this 5-week guest post series every Wednesday in May, you’ll hear from a real mama who bears her heart and soul to uplift others, a mama who steps up to the plate and fights daily battles for her child, a mama who exudes joy and peace in her “bigger-than-normal-sized” family, a mama who steps outside of the traditional mama box to share her love, and a mama who endured years of trials in search of the thing she desired most – to become a mama.
Take off your superwoman-supermom cape and put on your princess garments of beauty and truth. Step outside of your box, leap down from your tower. Sit still in comfort on your Father’s shoulders. Dance with faith. Be real with me in this place. This month is dedicated to you, special mamas.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. Psalm 45:13