All I ever wanted to be in life was a mother. In choosing my career, I only considered those jobs that I felt were closest to mothering and that involved nurturing and caring for children—nursing and teaching. In addition, I wanted a job that would allow me to be home as much as possible so that I could be the kind of mom I wanted to be. While I had no idea that I would eventually become an autism mom, I was dedicated to the idea of being a devoted parent long before I ever had Alex. Thankfully, the job I chose permitted me to be home with Alex a great deal of the time as I was blessed with a part-time teaching schedule after he was born. Moreover, Ed’s position as a college professor enables him to have a schedule that balances mine so that at least one of us can be home with Alex at all times. With his special needs, this rare schedule has been ideal, and I am thankful that not only I have been able to be an at-home mom most of the time, but also that Ed takes such wonderful care of Alex when I’m not home.
On this Mother’s Day, we honor the women who took care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs throughout our lives. While mothers often take on many thankless tasks because their children don’t always recognize the effort and worry behind them, they make sacrifices purely out of the unconditional love they have for their children. For the moms of children with special needs, the added responsibilities can be overwhelming, yet they strengthen the bond between mother and child because, as my own mother has said, taking care of a child makes you love that child more. When potty training takes long beyond the typical time, when we take our children to countless therapies hoping to improve their skills, and when we celebrate the smallest milestones because we know how big they really are, we moms of special needs children know that we do these things not out of obligation but with a deep love, which blesses us and keeps us going. When well-meaning people who have typical children tell us, “God never gives you more than you can handle,” we smile and say nothing, knowing that this comment is intended as a compliment. However, as one of my closest friends who has an adult special needs child and I can attest, throughout the years we’ve sometimes questioned God, asking, “Lord, do you know what you’re doing? You’re overestimating me, I think!” Nonetheless, despite what we may lack in courage and wisdom, He somehow grants us the perseverance and strength to move forward when we have no clue what we’re doing. Often when the fears and frustration have reached a peak, our children have breakthroughs that reassure us that while progress is not always steady, it is always possible.
In the more than nineteen years that I have been Alex’s mother, I have learned the most important lessons in life: hope, faith, and love. Taking care of him has brought me the greatest joys and the greatest tests, but everything has shaped my life for the better. I know, however, that I would not have been equipped to be his mom, had it not been for the outstanding example I was blessed to have in my mom. Besides her devotion, love, compassion, understanding, and wisdom, she has been a woman of faith who has taught me to trust in God at all times, but especially when times were uncertain. Not only has she taken care of me through the years, supporting and encouraging me, but she also has always been my closest friend who knew what I was thinking and said what I needed to hear. As Alex’s grandmother, she has found ways to interact with him on his terms in ways that he finds comfortable, and when he is asked to name a friend, he always names her: “Nanny.” As much as I needed my mom when I was a child, I realize that her calming presence, sense of humor, and good advice have been even more valuable as I have gotten older. Therefore, I find great truth in the words written on a plaque I gave her several years ago: “Long life to her because there’s no other who can take the place of my dear mother!” Today and every day, I thank God for my son and my mom for blessing my life so richly.
“So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.” Proverbs 23:25