Ten years ago I was the perfect mom. I mean, not to be a Braggy Braggerton but I really had the parenting business buttoned up.
I was a twenty-five-year old stay-at-home mom doing just what I had always wanted. I had done my time in college and graduate school and now after five years of married life, I was getting down to business in the field of my dreams. I lived in a little World War II-era bungalow near Sugarhouse Park where Jeff worked out of his office in the basement and I spent my days caring for our darling one-year-old son.
Every morning I brisk-walked to the park with a group of my friends. We pushed our toddlers in jogging strollers while discussing baby milestones, post-pregnancy recovery, and adjusting to one income. I started a play group and a book club. I canned my own strawberry jam. I volunteered at the church cannery and got abnormally excited about creating a home food storage plan. I handmade our family’s Christmas cards. I learned to piece a patchwork quilt and hand-quilted a small masterpiece for Henry. I cleaned my tiny house every Monday, took my child to the zoo every Wednesday, and visited story time at the library every Friday. I was the president of the Young Women’s organization at church. I hiked nearby trails with my friend Angie, with my baby on my back. I took a thirty-minute power nap every afternoon while Henry slept.
It seemed every time I left the house with my precocious, curly, strawberry-blond son, friends and strangers alike complimented me on my adorable little boy.
I mean seriously. When it came to motherhood, I had nailed it.
A lot can happen in ten years.
We now live in a much bigger house and I drive a much bigger car. We have four sons instead of one. I no longer can jam or hand-stitch quilts or hand-craft cards. And I certainly do not take a nap every afternoon. But it’s not just the trappings that have changed in my life.
Inwardly and outwardly, everything feels different.
With Jack’s birth nine years ago, my family’s trajectory changed in a big way. Beginning then, we entered the realm of different. We learned about developmental delay. We aligned ourselves with Early Intervention and a support group. We stopped going out in public much because of our second child’s meltdowns. Everything became harder.
In recent months we learned that our third child also has special-needs, albeit in a very different manifestation than his big brother. This turn of events has not been easier than the last diagnosis because we have done it before. If anything, it feels more traumatic because we have done it before. And now there are two.
But with Charlie’s diagnoses (he has four), my clan has become more of what we started to become when Jack joined the family. We are less apt to judge people who look or act differently. We are vastly more tolerant of messes because they are our constant companions, no matter how hard we try to eradicate them. We understand that “destruction of property” takes on a whole new meaning when special-needs children are around. We (meaning me) are way less smug. In fact, we (me) acknowledge that most of the time, we don’t know what the heck we are doing. We’ve learned to say no when people ask us to do stuff because it usually takes us past the tipping point. We are kinder. We are more patient. We feel genuine empathy for someone else’s hardship. We aren’t anywhere near perfect. We don’t even care about perfect. We think perfect should be drop-kicked down the street.
This isn’t the family I envisioned as a newly-wed or even as a young know-it-all mom of one kid. But it’s my family. And they are making me into somebody better.