I have a friend who says, “expectations kill relationships.” Motherhood has given new meaning to that phrase, and special needs motherhood even more so. When I expect things to go a certain way and they don’t, I find myself frustrated and sometimes angry. I feel let down and my mood makes things even worse. I’ve learned a simple truth over the last few years. Maybe you’ve learned it the as well.

Holidays + Toddlers + Autism = Chaos (with a side of magical moments)

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In general, holidays are difficult for little ones with autism because everything is so different. The daily schedule is different, the food is different, the atmosphere is different, the people are different, and (for us) the location is different. We travel on holidays to be with family, so not only are our little ones schedules disrupted but they’re also sleeping in a different bed and different room with different sounds and smells. This can be the perfect set up for stress and melt downs. The sudden change in… everything… is confusing and emotions are magnified.

If I go into holidays holding onto unrealistic expectations I will be disappointed. But if I release my expectations and go with the flow, knowing that we may not be able to do every activity or enjoy every meal and moment, I find myself (and my family) having a special time. Letting go of expectations has brought so much peace into our family.

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Glennon over at Momastery has this philosophy that rather than embracing “Carpe Diem” (seize the day AKA enjoy every single minute of your children while they’re small) we should “Carpe Kairos” (seize the God moments.) When we collapse into bed at night and look back at the previous 24 hours we are never going to see a perfect day. The kids will have had a tantrum at some point and things won’t have gone as planned. But in that same day, mixed in with the tears and skipped meals and naps that weren’t taken, there will be beautiful moments. There will be moments when my daughter will ask to have a tea party and giggle with me as we read books together. There will be moments when my son asks for a “squeeze” and hugs me as tight as he can, or pats the floor next to him and says, “come and sit!” while he builds train tracks.

Mingled in with the hard there will be wonderful moments. That makes a good day. So when my husband had to lay in bed playing phone games with our son for three hours on Thanksgiving day to help calm him down and put an end to the meltdowns we knew it was okay. It wasn’t what we had planned or expected, but the next day John told me how special that time had been for him and Mareto.

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Christmas morning might be little more chaotic for us. There might be tears and confusion while the wrapping paper flies and the gifts are assembled. The kids likely won’t sleep well all week. But that’s okay. There will be beauty in it still. We just have to choose to open ourselves up to a different kind of “successful” holiday. When we embrace what makes our holidays different, and choose to accept the hard, we make room for an imperfectly wonderful experience.

  • Debbie McFadden - Wise words and guidance for all of us! Merry Christmas Lauren!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - I love this! Holidays are hard for all children (at least in my experience with the four of mine) and this is such a great reminder!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - I love this post. I made a decision long ago to count my our families good moments, rather than good days. It is a tremendous help to see things this way.ReplyCancel

  • Dayan - Hi – I just discovered your blog,
    I just wanted to say that I love the pics you post of
    your kids,
    I Pray your little girl heals well from all her operations!

    Cheers and God Bless :) ReplyCancel

  • Dayan Govender - Hi – I just discovered your blog,
    I just wanted to say that I love the pics you post of
    your kids,
    I Pray your little girl heals well from all her operations!

    Cheers and God Bless :) ReplyCancel

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

  • Jodie - What a great message for all moms to hear! The need to support each other through all our parenting challenges. Bless you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • Darla - Excellent post Lauren! Thanks for so eloquently saying this.ReplyCancel