There’s a disturbing trend happening among a handful of parents who are raising children with special needs, developmental delays, medical needs, trauma, etc: the lashing out on those raising children without these extra labels. I’ve read words from obviously hurting mothers that literally express hatred toward any mother of a typically developing child who dares to share the joys of parenting … or worse, those who dare to complain about how hard being a mom can be.

I get it. I really do. It’s hard work being the mom of children with special needs. Some days go just fine, but other days I long for “normal.” It can be frustrating to hear a mom complain that she can’t get her picky son to eat his broccoli when I worked for months, literally, to get my son to eat anything other than oatmeal… anything at all. It can sting for a moment when a friend shares a funny story her child told her, or something sweet he may have come running to tell her when I’m longing to hear what my son thinks and feels… longing for even just one small sentence.

But, those are my issues to work out in my own heart. Just because things can be hard in my home doesn’t negate the struggles my friends go through. Special needs or not, parenting is hard work. Just because my hard is different from your hard doesn’t give me the right to silence you or belittle your experience. No, you may not know what I go through on a daily basis. It may be difficult to imagine some of our emotions and struggles… but that’s not your fault. It’s not a fault at all.

So please, please keep bragging on your children. If I can’t find joy in your joy then I am not being a true friend. To feel anger because something good happened to you that hasn’t happened to me is  immature at best, but the reality is that it’s a complete lack of love.

We need to love and support one another, not just those who walk a similar path to our own. If you’re tired and frustrated because your little one has a cold and has been extra cranky, it’s okay to share that and ask for support. Don’t feel awkward about saying that to me, knowing that we’re in post-surgery recovery mode and having a rough go of it. I mean that. If I am a friend, if I am being a loving and supportive person, then it won’t make me roll my eyes and utter, “if she only knew how bad it could be…

We can’t measure the level of celebrating or grieving that our peers experience, compare it to our own level, and make a judgement call on whether or not the celebrating or grieving is acceptable and/or equal to our own. We simply need to enter into their world, grab every ounce of compassion and empathy that we can muster, and be a friend.

Our job, as parents of children with special needs, is not to make others feel guilty and constantly remind them how good they have it. Our job is to love our children (and yours!), support and advocate for them, and to be a good friend. Your job, as parents of typically developing children, is not to hide your struggles and joys. Your job is to love your children (and ours!), support and advocate for them, and to be a good friend.

We who may feel like we may have a steeper path to climb in this parenting journey shouldn’t just shut our mouths, grit our teeth, and make the journey alone. No, it’s good to share the heartaches and struggles… but to do simply that, and not tear down or silence others in the process.

Can we all just agree that, at times, motherhood is hard for everyone? And truth be told, I don’t think for one second my friends of typically developing children have it better or easier than I do. Because I have the two most beautiful and amazing children on the planet. I have more than enough to celebrate!

*originally published in 2013*

 

 

  • Naa Ayorkor - I can.t express how true these words are and the reality of every bit of. You are a wonderful woman and really blessed to be a mom of your wonderful kids.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Murakami - I discovered your blog the other night and I cannot stop reading. Even though my life story (so far) hasn’t included infertility, adoption, or special needs children these are things I’ve always had so much empathy for and you speak of them so beautifully.

    This is (another) really great post IMO, and its applicability extends beyonds parenting and special needs. I’m married to a man with a “mega-career” and we live far from family, so I’m often alone (often as in, almost every evening these days, and almost every weekend day too – alone as in, with my kids but no other adults). This is not an easy situation for me, but if I reach out about this by posting on my social network (Facebook) I will seem ungrateful for the fact that he HAS a job – I’ve been called out on this before. And those calling me out could also be called out on the fact that they live in the US and have clean water … the “who has it worse” game has no end.

    I really believe that as humans we were designed to feel the whole range of human emotions, regardless of circumstances. You’re not only entitled to feel pain if your immediate needs for food, water, and shelter aren’t met. Life is hard, no matter the situation. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”ReplyCancel

  • Jamie - Keep writing Lauren! I love your insights! May the Lord bless you and yours!!! ((hugz)) Jamie @ forget-me-notohlordReplyCancel

When it comes time to decorate the house for Christmas I have these visions of a Mayberry Christmas. We’ll bring down the boxes from the attic, set up the tree, listen to carols while sipping hot cocoa, and smile and laugh while we decorate the house. The reality is a bit more chaotic.

Since last Christmas we’ve moved twice. We got rid of a lot of our Christmas things when we moved, so there were only a couple boxes to bring down from the attic. A mouse had, at some point, gotten into one of the boxes and left… treats. So that box when in the trash. The remaining box was opened and went something like this, “Why did we ever buy this? It’s so tacky!” At one point in the day I said to John, “I don’t want it to look like Christmas threw up in here! I’d just like simple and nice.” He just laughed at me, but agreed.

Buying a whole new set of Christmas decor isn’t exactly in our budget. But that’s fine by me because I love to improvise. So, I made a lot of our decorations by hand mostly using things I already had. John got into it too, and was thrilled when I had a crazy idea that would involve him using his power tools. So here’s a little tour through our mostly handmade Christmas.

tree Our tree is kind of a “Charlie Brown” tree. After two days one of the legs on the base broke and I was upstairs when I heard the thud. Mareto was so worried about the tree and ever since he’s been saying, “Careful! Tree will fall!” You can’t tell here, but John tied the tree to wall to keep it up, but it’s starting to lean again. I made the tree skirt using an old white sheet.

wood-pallet

This was John’s project and it turned out even better than I had imagined! He collected some discarded wood pallets, disassembled them, cut them all the same length, and reassembled them on a frame. Then I stained the wood, let it dry, and John hung it on the wall with some twinkle lights in the back for a festive feel. I strung twine on the front and attached Christmas cards, crafts, and such using tiny clothes pins.

collage

Since we don’t have a mantle I used a shelf we had stored in the attic for stockings. I grabbed some $5 fabric from walmart and sewed the stockings by hand since my sewing machine broke.  The yarn puffs are addicting! I cranked out a ton of them to put all throughout the house. Our little dining room chalkboard got a Christmas make-over, too.

We like to keep things simple at Christmas. We don’t go over the top with decorating and events. Gifts are kept very simple. John and I agreed several years ago not to get each other gifts. I know couples who absolutely love to surprise each other with gifts, but that’s just not us – we have other ways of treating each other special. We only get the kids two gifts each: a set of new pajamas and a book or toy. Don’t worry – their grandparents, aunts, and uncles spoil them rotten! We travel each year to be with family, so keeping things low key and simple helps us relax and really enjoy the Christmas season.

We don’t worry about all the things we “should” be doing. If we want to do advent readings we do – and if we miss a day, or ten, we don’t worry. Each year looks a little different and we aren’t too rigid in how Christmas looks for us. There’s so much peace to be found when we let go of our expectations and our idea of how things “should” be and just enjoy the people God placed in our lives while cultivating a spirit of gratitude and contentment.

How do you celebrate the Christmas season? Do you go “all out” or prefer a quiet, simple holiday?

  • Monika - Hi Lauren,
    I´m still reading your blog and this post is so beautiful for me! I really love this idea – romantic simple handmade Christmas! We (me and my husband) agreed with only one gift for each other, because we enjoy the time together and watching on our kids during opening their presents will be big gift for us.
    I think I will take some inspirations for next christmas from here! :-D
    Greetings from Prague
    MonikaReplyCancel

    • Lauren - Monika I’m so glad you’re still here! :) Merry Christmas to you and your family!!ReplyCancel

  • Paula - Your handmade Christmas is beautiful! Your post actually reminded me of another friend’s blog, so thought I would share it: http://myhometableau.com/category/simple-home/

    I don’t know if you did something different with the format or not, but when I opened the email this time, I was able to read the whole thing without having to slide from side to side as I’ve done previously.ReplyCancel

  • PANDAS # 1 - That is soooo cool!!ReplyCancel

  • Victoria - We’re a bit in between I think, but probably nearer simple than all out. And this year for the first time I have embraced rather than guiltily battled the missing of Advent readings!! I recommend it :-)
    I love your pallet craft – it would look great all year round for inspiration, kids craft etc.ReplyCancel

    • Lauren - Yes!!! Guilt-free Christmas is the best!! :) That was my thought for the pallet as well – to leave it up all year and put the kids crafts on it!ReplyCancel