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A Special Needs Mom's Letter of Recommendation

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I forgot my cape today!

And I left my super powers in bed, tucked under my pillow.

I stepped out of bed, and I forgot I should have put on all my super power gear because I needed to be Super Mom.

Oh wait… that’s just a dream.

It’s just me — a woman who is trying the best she can to navigate through waters she has not been. Only I’m on a raft with no paddle, no compass, and no life jacket. So I will sit here and enjoy the ride.

My mom always told me I wouldn’t understand why she did what she did until I had my own children, and boy was she right. The whole, “…just wait till you have your own” (although I still believe deserved my eye rolling) was so true. I just didn’t know it.

I realize something now I did not realize in the first six years of my son’s life: for special needs, you don’t get special moms. You simply get women who fight, love and do not give up… ever.

I prefer to think of myself as his number one fan, his biggest advocate, his teacher and his rock. I have no hidden super powers, talents, or gifts. In fact, I think I’m pretty regular. I’d actually say I’m on a border line of “unspecial,” if I was perfectly honest. I teeter on a fence most days of what to do, what to say, how to say it, and how to live it. 

For most people when they see my son, they think many things: “He doesn’t seem to have many challenges… if he is on the spectrum.” “He’s fine.”

And in a perfect world, if he knows what to expect, and the day has the same order, same routine and same shirt, he’s OK. Throw in a class trip, his favorite shirt in the wash, or a day he’s been regulating himself so hard to be “normal,” and this raft I’m on starts to sway and dip and rock in the torrents of waves, and winds I do not know how to control.

And today I felt I almost slipped off my raft into these waters. I was folding laundry, and I saw this:

folded laundry

To most, what you see is folded laundry. Piles for kids, and yet, there was my sons on the end. One shirt and one pair of pants. I realized then that I must have let him wear the same shirt for almost an entire week. How did I miss that?  This is typical for him, but usually I try to convince him to change his favorite shirt after two wears. How did I fail as a special needs mom? Should I not be better than this?

But I am “just” a mom. And it’s no different I suppose than trying to figure out my other five kids. I’m left trying to figure out not only how to maintain a house with a 16-year-old who has teenage issues, and a 3-year-old who wants to dress herself, even though those hot pink shorts and light pink shirt are so not the way to go; but I’m also trying to manage all the in between stages of life, school, home, and bookkeeping.

My husband got a letter of recommendation the other day for doing a job so well on renovating a kitchen. Sentences such as “…his team was absolutely amazing,” “…very professional and reliable,”…timely manner,” “…are the best in the area,” “…beautiful…high end quality,” ” …thank you.”

Yes, for sure, if you need a house built or a renovation, he is quite something. He is a “Jack of all trades.” Insert business card here. I honestly was so happy and pleased for him. But us moms don’t usually get letters of recommendation or thank you notes.

My life (and hair) is often messy, deadlines are not always met, quality is sometimes missed, and some days I’d rather let them watch TV than hear them argue.

But I do love, and I do it fiercely. I do it when I say “no” or when I take away a privilege. I do it when I call the pediatrician weekly, and I’m sure they’d rather not pick up, or when I read more articles than I understand. I love them when I cook, clean and wash, and when I drive them for their sports and school. When I give them chores or don’t them to do something they so desperately want to do, I am loving them. They just can’t always see it.

But I believe my biggest challenge as a mom today is trying to teach my children that what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Trying to show them that what I didn’t do for them and I do for my son is not spoiling. I have raised them all so similar, and now I have to raise one differently because he is so.

And it’s hard. Being a mom is hard.

So to all you moms out there, consider this your letter of recommendation:

Dear Mom,

I have the pleasure of being among you, the elite group of women who call yourselves “Mom.”

You are amazing. You are holding your profession well and are reliable in fulfilling your task.

Your quality of work is second to none. You clean and work and do what you do always in a timely manner — the time deemed and set by your employees.

The people you are working with are the best in the area because they are yours.  

From the 16-year-olds who think you are too hard on them and the 3-year-olds who want to do everything on their own, to the boys and girls with special needs who have made life special; they all have individual tasks in your job, which will allow you to push yourself to limits you never thought you’d be able to achieve.

You are the “Jack of all trades,” and no matter what needs to be done, you can do it.

You are hard working, and I am pleased at how beautiful your heart is, your strength, and your courage.

Thank you, Mom, for being who you are!

And so, I wish I could go and grab my cape now, while I fly off to do the various things I am called to do.

I sometimes think it would be nice as a mom to have x-ray vision, super speed, or super strength, but I don’t.

I’m just me, on this raft, floating along the ocean of life, and this raft is not even my own.

I’m clinging on to a rope of faith behind it because I have precious cargo on board.

I do not know where this raft is going or how I will get there most days. But all I can hope is that when I hit shore, I have survived. 

I may be beaten, broken, and changed, but I will land knowing the journey was hard, but that I made it.

And when I take in the sight of the beautiful vacant white sanded beach  — and I think I am alone and have finally finished my travels — I will not be surprised when I hear someone yell, “Mooooom.”

Because that is what I am and always will be. But I hope I will know that the job of Mom and the journey of being Mom, has made me who I am.

And although the journey is tough and surprising, I can only cling to the hope that my children will see the journey of life is absolutely worth it, and hopefully it prepares them for a journey of their own.

Follow this journey here.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: October 11, 2016
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