Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Child is Normal, But My Motherhood is Not

I enjoy reading mommy blogs. Quite often I end up reading blogs of mommies to kids with special needs, and I’m always struck by how much I can relate.
My daughter is totally normal: neuro typical, even highly intelligent. Physically normal: squarely in normal weight-height distribution and abilities for an almost 5 year old. Yes, she’s strong willed, but no one, not her teachers, not the family therapist she met with for several months, not her pediatrician, has ever suggested that her strong will and knack for defiance was anything other than normal behavior.

So what do I have in common with a mom to an autistic child, or a physical disabled child, or learning disabled child?

I think it’s motherhood itself. Whether our child was planned or not, we all cherished hopes and dreams about her. We all envisioned the future with this little tiny being – a person formed out of our physical flesh and blood. We all thought about breast feeding, about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and playgrounds and pools. We all thought about dressing our little angel up in adorable outfits, and watching his first steps, recording her first words, reading his first book. Some of us went further: dreaming about teaching our child how to sing or dance or play sports; dreaming about driving lessons or meditation techniques. We vowed to pass on our wisdom so our kid wouldn’t suffer through 7th grade the way we did. We looked at our driveways and considered how we could fit a 3rd car there for our teen driver.

And then, inevitably, our child is born and has the nerve to be unique.

There’s no mistaking my daughter for someone else’s child: except for her hair color and big blue eyes, she IS me. Her body, her face, her mouth, her hands, her imagination: it’s all me. Her perfectionism, her desire to behave perfectly in public, her frustration with having to practice any skill: it’s all me.

So why is it so challenging for me to raise her?

Because she is NOT me. She is her own person. Half her DNA comes from her dad. Half her personality comes from him. And all of her environment is different from mine: different parents, different city, different culture.

At a certain point, every mom’s dream about motherhood collapses into the reality of the child we have borne. 

This is why I can relate so strongly to blogs about special needs children. Because although my daughter is thoroughly normal, she is NOT what I expected. My fantasy of motherhood was shattered just as much as any other mom’s fantasy. Granted, a lot of my dreams are still intact: my daughter walks and talks; she’ll read and graduate high school; she forms relationships and will most likely have a family one day. Yet she defies me; she confronts me; she has her own taste in food, in clothing, in entertainment. The way I thought I would be a mother is impossible: it wouldn’t work for her OR me.

As mothers, we can either resist the shattering of our dreams, or we can fall into acceptance. We can fight and be angry or sad that our child doesn’t check off the boxes we expected him to. Or we can relax and rejoice in the boxes our child does check off. 

We have a choice: to parent the child we created in our head or to parent the child we created in reality.

I’m choosing to accept my reality. It’s not easy. In fact, most days it is just plain exhausting. But it’s what is best for me and what is best for her. And the less time I spend resisting reality, the more energy I have to be there for my little one.

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