The other night I got a text from a friend with a special-needs daughter.
Her: “Today made me want to rip my hair out and swear uncontrollably. I may have done one of those things. I’m having a hopeless day. Hopeless that she will ever be capable of functioning and hopeless that I’ll ever be able to handle being her mom. I seriously suck at it and I get tired of people telling me they don’t know how I do it. First, they’re implying that they are glad they don’t have to deal with her and second, I’m NOT doing it. I for real suck at being her mom. Sorry, I just had to get that out somewhere where I knew I wouldn’t be judged.”
If my children have taught me anything, it is to judge not, lest the judge-fest turn on you. So when my sister in parenting travail bared her soul, there was 100% no judgment, only a largesse of getting it. You guys, if you want to get really good at accepting and forgiving people’s foibles, raise some children with behavioral disabilities. Empathy, too, is another byproduct of families like ours.
When my friend’s text came through, I was sitting in bed staring at the wall, unable to focus on books or writing or anything productive. I had just put my children to bed at 7:45 PM, not because they were tired, but because I had reached the end of my taut, abrasive rope and was hanging on by a poorly tied knot at the end.
Me, to her: “I still don’t feel capable of being my kids’ mom. There are a lot of hopeless days, and it doesn’t mean you suck. It just means it’s hard.”
Some days, that is the lesson for me: it’s hard. End of story.
Good luck trying to write something funny or lighthearted when you feel wrung out by the children and circumstances.
Me to her, continued: “I’ve started thinking that successful parenting in our case is just trying again another day, even if we are doing it badly. We have so little control over the way our kids turn out, despite all our efforts. God looks at the effort, not the end result. (Charlotte Bronté said that, not me, btw.) That’s really all that gets me through. Special-needs parenting is hard. And you’re doing it.”
As I speed-typed this sentiment with my thumbs, I realized I was telling myself this, too. I’ve found this new, jaded attitude of letting-go and it’s one of the best things I’ve done in some time.
It could all go up in flames. It may never be great. We may always be just muddling through, and I’m all, “Yeah, oh well.”
I’m trying. It’s all I can do. Oddly, I feel freed by this lowering of my expectations.
I’ve recognized that I’m doing my best, which probably isn’t enough, but it’s all I’ve got. It’s a better feeling—not caring how it all turns out.
Is this end-stage acceptance? Just shrugging and being all, “Okay. Sure,” about one’s life?
Will it all turn out okay, ultimately? God knows.
He can figure it out.