My Son Has Special Needs, So What Kind of Mom Does That Make Me?
Mom life in today's society is straight-up difficult. I spent a ton of wasted hours trying to fit the mold of the type of mom I thought I should be. And I say "wasted hours" because I learned that no matter how much time we spend trying to be the perfect parent, we ultimately end up becoming the one we're destined to be. I don't care if you've raised 20 children or are perfectly content with one — none of us will ever have it all figured out. And I don't think any mom fits a generic mold that can be easily cloned. I don't think there's only one "type" of mom, especially when it comes to special needs moms.
I've experienced the highs of being the go-to mom for tips and advice. I've experienced the lows of being the mom behind the epic fail heard whispered across the playground. But whether I was on top of my mom game or the hot mess hoping to avoid adulting, one thing has always stayed the same: I don't care what others think about the way I parent my child. As a special-needs mom, I learned that every parent does things their own way, and their way works for them and their kids. Special needs parents can't fit the characteristics of one specific parenting style. The complexity of my son's medical condition, the ever-evolving challenges he faces, the loads of bits of information I have to know — I have to remember — make special needs parenting a style all its own.
I'm an ordinary mom who looks past her child's disabilities and empowers him to dream big. I'm a mom who believes that mountains are made to be moved because I've seen my son do it with my own two eyes.
I know there are many out there who are quick to assume and easy to judge me as a mom. I can't say I blame them. I'm not part of any mom group. I'm not big on staying to help with school programs and activities. I don't stand around the school parking lot chatting. Instead, I'm preparing for medical tests, scheduling follow-up appointments, and making sure nothing interferes with weekly occupational and speech therapy sessions. There's also raising awareness, gathering funds, and encouraging continued research for conditions I was completely blind to before my son was the one diagnosed with them. I'm the special needs mom — the one all the other moms think is anti-social until they get to know me.
Some might call me a helicopter mom, because there are many times when I hover over my son, ready to swoop in at any moment. I'm that mom because I've seen him go through so many painful procedures. I've watched my child face so many frustrating challenges. I've witnessed him overcome so many hard battles. I've seen him face struggles no little boy should be forced to face. So, yes, part of me wants to be there to catch him whenever he falls. Literally. The helicopter mom in me wants to do everything I possibly can to make my child's life easy, because his life is anything but easy. I hover to keep him safe. I hover so I can have the peace of mind that he'll be OK.
Others might just call me a protective mom. There's a side of me that also understands how important it is to let my little boy wander outside the pack so he can learn his own lessons in life. I try to give him the freedom he needs to be his own person. I marvel at his wild passion to explore, meet new people, and learn new things. I appreciate his strong will and celebrate his "I can do it on my own" mentality. I let my son fall so he knows he can pick himself up. I give him enough space for him to learn that failure is unavoidable, and enough encouragement to know he can rise to success, even through his biggest challenges. I encourage him to grow while gently reminding him that I'll always be there to protect him when he needs it most. My son knows I will jump in and fight for him when he can't fight for himself. But he also knows it's OK to try to fight for himself first.
So, who am I? What kind of mother am I? I don't really think I carry strong helicopter mom traits. Sure, there are difficult days in our medical journey. Sometimes I've got my guard up, anticipating a medical emergency that hasn't even happened. But most of the time I'm really just desperately trying to soak up every moment I have with my child. Most days, I'm that mom. And I became that mom four years ago when I handed my 5-month-old baby over to a doctor to undergo emergency brain surgery. I was the mom who had no idea if my child would ever be safely returned to my arms. When I laid eyes on him in that recovery room, I became the mom who learned to appreciate and cherish every single moment with the people I love. So, when I'm hovering over my son, it's probably because I'm soaking up every ounce of the boy he is today before he grows into the man he's meant to be.
Special needs parenting is a balancing act I'm continually trying to master. While I understand that there's little room for error when it comes to my son's health and safety, I also try and give him the independence he needs to thrive. So, what kind of mom does this make me? Am I the mom I set out to be from the beginning? Yes and no. I'm an ordinary mom who looks past her child's disabilities and empowers him to dream big. I'm a mom who believes that mountains are made to be moved because I've seen my son do it with my own two eyes. I'm a mom who will always be there to make sure her son never gives up. And I'm a mom who is always trying to do the best she can.