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The Transition Into Summer Vacation for a Special Needs Mom

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Summer vacation is here, the days I wait for all year. Those few months of freedom, where the majority of routine is diminished. Where alarm clocks aren’t set every night and lunch boxes are put up in the top cupboard — you know, the high one that no one goes in. Even though the sun shines longer in these days, it’s complemented from late morning rises. Breakfast isn’t choked down while I’m scrambling to get everyone out of the house on time. Clothes aren’t laid out the night before, and yes, sometimes we even skip our nightly bath. It’s a small reward from those endless months of hustle, driven from strict routine. A little less thought.

This morning it was 8 a.m. when my daughter awoke from her bed. She plopped down on our family room floor, barely awake, and dumped out a big bucket of toys, creating a fun-filled mess on the floor — something she wouldn’t be able to do throughout all the busy days. She immersed herself in play as she was still wiping the sleep from her eyes. I sat, and for a moment tried to absorb some of the “normalcy” that was filling up the air. I breathed it in deep into my lungs.

While I sat sipping my coffee, my happiness began to feel a little tainted. My mind wandered to a place it often doesn’t go while I’m in such a hurry. I guess that’s a good thing about routine: You just go, you don’t often pause to reflect why you’re doing it. The good and the bad just kind of intertwine between each other, and just like that, creates a purpose to push forward. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t just embrace this moment. Not all of me would give in. I couldn’t help but drift to a place of guilt. I thought of how busy our lives are constantly. My daughter has spent almost every day in therapy since she was 2. She has cerebral palsy and is developmentally delayed. Our live are busy, built around many appointments and therapy. Every part of it is extremely important and necessary, but still, it’s busy.

During all those busy days I don’t have much time to think about how we are progressing or regressing — I just keep going. This partly keeps me calm, without a doubt. Between her and her soon-to-be entering high school brother who has learning disabilities, our lives move quickly. We don’t question much, we don’t fight the routine, we just do what we do. Life reflection usually shows itself when all is calm, when your thoughts are at bay, and usually creeps in unexpected and sometimes unwanted. Just like that, the tears rolled down my face, months worth of tears. Months of worry that had been buried and shoved into the back corridors of my mind began to surface, overflowing into my coffee cup.

The past few months were replaying in my mind. All the IEP meetings at school and insurance arguments. Speech evaluations. Late school projects. Endless doctor appointments, lab testing and referrals to many doctors. The constant judgment I got from others who are unable to comprehend my family’s busy day. The fear of failure that haunted my motherhood. The pile of laundry on the bathroom floor, the unread library books that were never read or returned. The dinners that were pulled from a freezer instead of made from love. Those months were survival, each and every one. It was like exhaling after months of holding my breath. My fears were being unleashed and my emotions were running wild. The transition into summer as a special needs mom for me has begun.

Those days built around routine would soon reappear one day soon. The toys on the floor soon wouldn’t be there anymore. The youth of my children will be rushed by, dictated with time, and many emotions will be hidden, reburied deep inside. I desperately want to enjoy this time, to feel every second, to embrace the calm if only for a while. I spend so much time craving it and desiring it, but knowing how to accept it can be hard. The calm, slow-paced lifestyle is when the emotions emerge.

The good times of summer, where my strong willed side becomes more calm, more subdued. It’s a transition I’m sure many special needs parents go through. As I bounce back and forth, I readjust my focus to just being a mom, to just having fun. No battles to fight or late night papers to write. It’s just time with my kids. These are the best moments of my life.

Originally published: August 6, 2016
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