I have returned….. I am back home after a long weekend in the city with my friend Michelle. This is becoming a bit of a tradition. I think it has something to do with 40. 40 years of experience, raising kids, growing, learning and loving. Life evolves and the wants and needs of ourselves and our children change. I have finally reached a stage in my life that I give myself permission to grab my bags, kiss my babies good-bye and head out the door for a weekend with my girlfriend without guilt. Honestly I am not sure why it takes 40 years to reach this point. My Mom has whispered in my ear many times over the years to take time out for myself but I thought, “What does she know? I am a Mom and I can’t be selfish like that.” The sad thing is she knew it was selfish not too. Every time I leave I come back a relaxed, inspired and a grateful Mom. A better Mom.
This trip could not have come at a better time. The last couple months have been a roller coaster with tons of good and tons of reality. All of it wrapped together leads to some sleepiness nights as well as pushing myself to limits I didn’t even know I had. There are a lot of lifes worries that I tend to shove right back down when they surface themselves and my heart questions what the future holds especially when it comes to my kids.
Insert – We baked Cookies
Being this is Down syndrome awareness month my friend, Kelle, wrote a beautiful piece about raising a child with Down syndrome and how it relates to siblings. It was beautiful and it raised some hard questions for me. I have been struggling with them for the past week. Truth is I tend to not even think what the future holds for Grace and her siblings because one thing I have learned while being a Mom for almost 13 years is that you can not control the way your children think about anything. When I was a new Mom and raising toddlers I worried that one wasn’t feeling loved or I would question if I hugged one boy more then another. I would make sure I included all of them all of time. It was a vicious circle of worry that never was satisfied. It was and still is impossible to make everyone was happy all the time.
As we were blessed with more children our rooms filled from one child to 2. Moving them in together stressed me out. I grew up in a house where everyone had their own room, their own toys and virtually shared very little except our parents. Our parents took us on vacations every year. We made it to Disney at least 3 times! We wanted for virtually nothing. I was the only child in our family who was a product of divorce. I never remember my biological parents being married but I always had a Mom and 2 Dads that loved me unconditionally. But guess what? I have good memories and bad. I remember feeling insecure and scared. I also remember feeling loved. Everything I felt are my feelings and there is really very little my parents could have done to change those feelings. They did the best they could and they loved me. I know that. Yet still there are memories of wishing my parents were together. Questions about how my life would have been if they never divorced. As well as dreams of what type of family we would have been.
I thought a lot about that this weekend. I thought a lot about how my kids will feel when they are my age. What will they think of their childhood and will they look back on having a sister with a developmental disability and find it a gift or a burden. It stings to even think about. So here are my thoughts and what I told myself. I don’t care. Honestly as you read above, even though my parents divorced before I can remember them being married I was given 2 sisters and a brother. I was given a second man to call Dad. I was given a whole other extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles and even grandparents! I mean really? How lucky am I? You know that is a whole set of additional Christmas and Birthday presents, right?! And guess what? I still have insecurities. There is nothing my parents could have done to change that.
So all I can do is love my kids. Remind them that they are important and encourage a whole lot of “love your siblings”. What they do with that is up to them. The road to adulthood with my 3 siblings has not been a smooth highway. It has been more of an old, bumpy country road with pot holes and a lot of dust. Put us in a room for longer then 3 days and nerves are on high alert. But you know what? I love them. I would do anything for them and I can’t imagine my life without them regardless of the differences each of them have. Regardless of the differences I have. They are my family.
Down syndrome is just that Down syndrome, nothing more. Grace is our daughter and their sister. When questions arise from the kids, such as “Mom how long has Grace had Down syndrome?” I answer, “since she was born.” “Oh”, they say, “she is so cute Mom.” Ahhh that she is. They are right, she is cute.
So I am laying this to rest. I am giving myself a break. I don’t care if someday my sons think it is a burden raising a child with a developmental disability, because for me, it is not. For me it will never be. The sky is the limit in my mind for her and the boys. I expect greatness from all of them and the definition of greatness is not the top of their class and the captain of their sporting team. I expect each of them to leave their mark on this world. I want them to busy themselves with caring, loving and experiencing life. I believe that is the only way to true happiness anyway.
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