Walking down the aisle 26 years ago to my Prince Charming, I would never have guessed that my fairy tale would have a consistent amount of road blocks. Dreaming of that house with the white picket fence, that great career that would take me to new heights and the fabulous, perfect children that would make our family complete.
Well, let me just say that God definitely laughed in my face. My journey was ‘gonna be the ride of my life. But I can tell you honestly today — I would not change a single thing!
My oldest, Casey is developmentally and learning disabled. He is 25 years old and went through the special education system all through his school years and graduated high school at the age of 21. From the first few days after his birth, I sensed that something was not right. That maternal instinct kicked in full force.
Casey was diagnosed with so many medical and feeding issues that it was overwhelming. The first few years we took him to 15 doctors. You know it is bad when you begin to call the doctors by their first names. He lost all his hair, which is called alopecia, when he was 2 years old and it has never grown back. There was an insurmountable number of hospital stays for weeks on end. I would live there for 2 weeks at a time and then go home for a couple of weeks. The cycle went on like that for a while. Total hospital stays were about 16.
But, I made a monumental decision during that time. This was the hand what I was dealt, and I was not going to let it swallow me up. I was not going to be that “woe is me” girl who craved the attention from her friends, and have them look at me with that sorrowful look. I would wipe that look right from their faces! I made it my mission to teach Casey not to use his disability or adversities as a crutch, and, try to have some fun along the way.
I come from a family filled with very funny women. When the crap hit the fan, so to speak, the room would often be filled with laughter. Our family motto was “Laughing is so much better than crying”.
My father would remind me of this when I felt the walls closing in, along with other powerful sayings. “Life is like a card game. It is not about the hand you get, but how you play that hand. Play it with dignity & grace.” Casey has sure done that and more – why couldn’t I do the same?
Casey and his brother Christian are the two greatest accomplishments of my life. They are incredible men with big hearts and can make a room burst into laughter! That is a gift that I hope they carry with them throughout their lives.
So, if you ever feel like this roller coaster ride of motherhood is not what you expected, here are some tips I have lived by and helped me get through:
1. Don’t compare your kids to your friend’s kids. And don’t compare what kind of mom you are to what kind of mom your friends are. Stop the insanity. Every child has their own different journey, whatever that may be, and every mom has their own unique way of raising them.
2. Never beat yourself up over the mistakes you make. Because there are going to be years worth – it is inevitable. This job NEVER ends, no matter how old your kids get. So give yourself some grace along the way.
3. Try to take time for yourself. As moms we have heard this a thousand times – but do we even do it? No matter what, we can never loose ourselves. Fight for that. A happy mom makes for happy kids, so loose the guilt at the door and be kind to yourself.
4. Find the joy! Life goes by so fast and you blink and they grow up. Enjoy the small moments and take one day at a time. By doing this, you breathe and see the small moments more clearly, and enjoy the process along the way.
But, most of all, embrace the chaos and uncertainty. There is no perfect family in the world. All families have their loops and curves on that roller coaster ride. Believe me, laughing while being whipped around will get you through every miserable day. That, and a bottle of wine!
Kathy Chlan is the author of Maternally Challenged: How My Special Needs Son Taught Me to Sack Up & Laugh and the writer behind the popular website Unfiltered Mom. More at www.unfilteredmom.com.