One day, it felt like everything that could go wrong on a simple outing with my two boys with special needs, did go wrong. We experienced not one, not two, but three epic meltdowns. My older son was teased and called a baby by some peers because of his limited speech. My younger son pushed a toddler and his mother angrily told me how agressive my son was and how I should be able to control him. On and on it went, and I left the flop of an outing, buckled my boys in the car and cried.
When we got home, I banished them to the couch and told them to watch TV while Mommy spent some time alone. I sat at my computer, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, feeling like an epic failure of a mom. Wondering what I could have done differently. Wondering what I should have said to that mother accusing my son of being aggressive and to those kids teasing my son. Wondering if my older son may actually be more aware of the teasing than I realized and maybe I should say something to encourage him. Wondering if I could ever take my kids someplace fun again and it would actually be fun. Wondering if I should be doing more speech therapy and occupational therapy, and if I should pull them out of school and homeschool them, and all the other bajillion things there were to wonder about when it came to my children and my parenting abilities. I was spiraling, and before I knew it, I had convinced myself I was the worst mother in the world.
And then my seven-year-old walked over to me. Tentatively, and rightly so, but he seemed determined, and so I asked him what he wanted. I'll never forget the words he said. "You gold star Mommy." On the end of my child's finger was a sticker of a gold star. The grin on his face said so much more than his limited vocabulary ever could. Tears filled my eyes as I took the sticker, placed it on my shirt and gave that precious child a hug. I didn't feel like a gold star Mommy, but I was basing that on my own thoughts and feelings and high expectations. My child told me I was a gold star mommy and he meant it.
It's easy to do. To feel like we're failing. To feel like we're not good enough or doing enough. To see all of our flaws and think so negatively about ourselves we can't see anything good. But we're looking through our own eyes, and not the ones that matter. The ones that love us unconditionally. My children think I'm a gold star mommy. Their warm snuggles and grins tell me so. And God Himself tells me that He delights in me and rejoices over me with singing (Zephaniah 3: 16).
I want to believe those thoughts about me, rather than my own. I placed that gold star sticker on a picture of my children above my desk. It is a gentle reminder that I may not be perfect, but it's not my job to be. My job is simply love and care for those God has put in my life.
And just for the record, you are a gold star mommy, too. :)
The fact that you are feeling frazzled or that you are a failure or that you're not doing enough shows just how much you care about your children.
It's easy to focus on all the things that need to get done or haven't been done. But if you focus instead on all the things that you are doing, you'll see you're doing a great job. You're tackling the dishes, the laundry, the million calls to insurance. The endless appointments and at home therapy homework. The IEP meetings or homeschool curriculum instruction.
This picture just says it all to me, and I hope it encourages you:
You are doing a great job. And you are exactly the mother your child needs. The one your child wants and feels safe with.
You are the one who cooks and cares and cleans for them. Advocates for them. Understands them like no one else.
There are times you will grieve the child you dreamed of and how hard life is now. There are times you will lie awake worrying about your child and their future. But you wipe away those tears and push aside those worries and you paste a smile on your face and you put one foot in front of the other and you continue to do what needs to get done.
You persevere. And though you may feel like you're living day to day in survival mode, I promise you, you actually are learning to flourish. You and your family have been planted in a hard situation and yet you are still here, still alive, still blooming, still showing off your colors to the world.
When you're feeling like a failure or feeling burnt out, take a few moments to yourself to indulge in some necessary self-care and just breathe. Nurturing yourself is critical for your wellbeing and your family's success, even if it's hard to fit in self-care.
Pursue whatever is necessary for your family's wellbeing and your mental health. If a particular therapy isn't working drop it, or take a break from it for a while. If a task is too heavy, seek out help for it, such as finding someone to assist with childcare, help with yard-work, or finding a counselor for yourself if needed.
Embrace your children for who they are--their gifts, their passions, their unique personalities, and their unique way of blooming.
And embrace that you are a great mother. A gold star mother. A fierce mama bear.
And keep on rockin' it Mama. We've got this. :)