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To My Sister-in-Law, the Special Needs Mom I Hope to Be One Day

I witness your patience at our family gatherings. Watch you re-enter the room with grace after handling what I can only imagine was a difficult conversation with my nephew
outside. Everything about you exudes confidence and ease in situations that might otherwise call for panic. You are my sister by marriage, but have always felt more like a sister by blood.

For the past 12 years, you have dedicated your life to your twin boys. Two boys who started on a journey together, but little did you know in the beginning how different those paths would be from one another. One not better than the other, but each with its own challenges.

A¬†few years in, when you and my brother would discover the unique¬†challenges that lay ahead, you did not cower.¬†You grieved the life that you thought your family would have, and moved¬†forward. You educated yourself and became involved. You became an¬†advocate for your son, my nephew. I feel you embodied the definition of mother. While I didn’t have kids at the time, I knew then you were¬†the mom I wanted to be someday.

He¬†started school, and the hurdles you were warned about started coming¬†at you. You didn’t run away, you sprinted towards them, and like an¬†Olympian you gracefully bounded over each one. They said he wouldn’t¬†be able to do this, you said, ‚ÄúJust watch.‚ÄĚ and he did.

It¬†wasn’t always easy, it still isn’t. The over-stimulation which forces¬†him to seek refuge in quiet rooms instead of interacting with¬†family. The extra effort it takes for him to make eye contact and¬†carry on conversations at length. Your desire for his developing¬†social life as he enters his teen years. I get overwhelmed thinking¬†about it, but you accept it as a reality of life.

Then I became a mother myself. You would often enter my mind. How would she handle this? What would she do? Why is this so hard? I would catch myself thinking, and even saying it out loud: How does she do it with twins, and one who has special needs? Then I got my own variety of twins, the Irish kind.

As a mom myself, with a spirited daughter with her own struggles and path yet to be determined, I still think of you often. I think of your optimism, courage, advice, patience and grace. I imagine you in your house talking softly to my nephew, as I lose my cool with my daughter and raise my voice at her.

You taught me so much already. You remind me to take care of myself, put myself first, because if I am not my best, how can I be the best mom for them? Your analogy of putting the oxygen mask on myself before my kids is something I share with other moms all the time. In the midst of all the chaos of your life, you still find time for me.

When my nephew tells me a joke, a story, engages with me, I believe it is the result of the love, support and time you and my brother have put in. As a mother, I know how hard raising kids is now, and I feel blessed to have you as a resource, inspiration and most of all a sister.

As¬†I face these next few years of uncertainty with my own child, I will¬†continue to keep you in mind. I yearn to have the patience,¬†understanding and grace that you hold with you at all times. You are¬†still the mom I want to be, the mom I strive to be, and for my¬†daughter’s sake, I hope someday the mom I will be.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing you want to make sure the special needs mom in your life knows? *If you are the special needs mom, challenge a loved one to respond to this! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images