Do you ever watch people do things and they make it look so effortless, so you think to yourself “I could do that!” And then you try it and you instantly realize that it isn’t quite as effortless as they made it look? That is what motherhood is for me.
Before I had children I would watch other women and think how I can’t wait to be a mom and play around the house all day, go to a mall, dress them in cute clothes, style their hair, and as lame as it sounds, I wanted to have those perfect family photo’s hanging above my mantel.” Now if this sounds like your life then congratulations! You have accomplished what I now realize is impossible for us.
For example our last family photo we spent majority of the time running through the snow chasing Jacob and when we did catch him long enough to get a picture we had to hold him in place. You can see how Jason held him in place just long enough to get a picture. Year after year our family photos consist of him picking his nose (on purpose), being a dinosour or golum (LOTR), throwing snow in my face, and those are just a few.
another example is just last week we had the opportunity to go to the “Little Mermaid” put on by Storybook Theatre. There is no question that if Jason’s sister wasn’t in it we never would have tried something so risky for Jacob, and for months we avoided buying tickets. The fact is, is that Jacob doesn’t do well in new, loud situations. We decided we would go and he was excited until he found out that once the show starts you can’t leave to go to the bathroom which caused a lot of stress on him. We had a few incidences getting him there and then when he got hungary in intermission there was no helping him. we made it throught the doors just as they were closing for act two. He spent the first 15 min of the second half slapping my arm and calling me names. he then spent the rest of the play curled up in a ball, plugging his ears and occassionally hitting or yelling at me.It was upsetting and reminded me why we don’t put ourselves through situations like that.
So how do I deal with the disapointment you might ask? Well I used to get upset and feel sorry for my self. I would think “why can’t I have one nice, uncomplicated outing with my children?” or “Why can’t I have one nice picture with everyone matching and smiling”? Well I can now answer that question, but it has taken a lot of work and effort to find that answer.
When Jacob was Diagnosed, as with any diagnosis, you basically go through the stages of grief.
- Shock/denial: Although it was a relief to get his diagnosis I found myself still thinking “there is no way he is autistic because……” But he is and trying to rationalize it away didn’t work.
- Anger: I was not so much angry as I was frustrated. Everytime I would hear about some fun, exciting, wonderful thing people would do with their children, knowing we may never be able to do those things made me…… ok it made me mad!
- Bargaining: I prayed so many times that if only it could be easier I would do anything. I also bargained with Jacob that if he would just behave and stay calm I would give him virtually anything he could think of. (that got expense really fast so I don’t recommend that as a successful parenting technique)
- Depression: I don’t know what to say about this that I havn’t already said in previous posts but I will say that if I hadn’t gotten to that dark place I never would have gained the understanding and love for the challenges in my life. Which brings me to the last step.
- Accceptance: This is the part that I most want to talk about, because this is the part that makes the other steps worth it, and this is where I learned the answers to all my “why….” questions.
First of all let me say that acceptance does not mean that all of a sudden you enjoy every minute of your life. Lets face it Life is hard no matter what you are dealing with. Acceptance is understanding the importance of what you are going through. For me, acceptance was first understanding what the future would hold for our family. It was understanding that because of the challenges he faces he will always require more attention and explanation. It was understanding that we may never get to go to events or gatherings like other people. I understand that we can’t just have people over for dinner that he doesn’t approve of. I understand that we are those crazy people that are always looking for our son, no matter how closely I watch him. And I now understand that I may always have a child that acts like a dinosaur in my family photos.
However, I also understand that because he requires so much more work, his accomplishments mean so much more, and I have learned so much about what I am capable of because of Jacob. One of the young women in our ward asked me one day if I would want to know the future. I thought for a moment and replied “no”. She actually seemed a little surprised, but I did explain my reason. I said that “life gets hard and if I knew how hard it was going to be I never would have made the same choices”. But because we can’t see the future and we do just have to deal with things as they come, we have the opportunity to show ourselves just how amazing we are.
The next step for me was to lower my expectations. I know how that sounds but its true, and its ok to do. I can’t expect Jacob to wake up in the morning and get himself dressed and ready for the day without a major meltdown, because all that does is set me up to fail, and failling all the time sucks! This is not to say I don’t have goals for our family but I have realized that I need my expectations and goals to be realistic for the people involved.
The next step in my acceptance journey was accepting my life as it is right now. The future holds many scary and uncertain things for our family but I can’t do anything about that, so I choose to live in the moment and deal with the here and now. Dont get me wrong, I make preparation for our future, I just don’t let myself get overwhelmed thinking of what could happen and what will inevitably happen.
The last step has been the hardest for me, and that is that I have to accept that this is my life and it isn’t going away. S far, Jason, Jacob, Sarah and I, all have conditions that will be with us for the rest of this mortal life. While some are more serious than others, and some will only get worse, I have needed to accept that I can’t just wait out the storm. I can’t just sit back and wait for life to get easier. I need to push forward and learn and grow as much as I can.
I want to clarify that acceptance is not giving up, or deciding you don’t need to try because nothing will ever change. Change is why we are here. Changing our attitude toward life is a vital step in our search for happiness. Acceptance in the stages of grief is described as “finally finding the way forward” meaning it is only then, that you are able to move forward with new hope.
Motherhood is hard for me. I feel like I never accomplish anything. I feel secluded and alone, but when someone asks how I am doing I respond with “I’m good”. Now, is everything actually “good”? No. I would say 90% of the time “good” is not an accurate depiction of my life. So why do I say it is good when it isn’t? It is because I want it to be good. Some days all I can strive for is good. So as part of my acceptance I have realized that I sometimes need to talk myself into a more positive look on life. Changing my view of motherhood was hard, but I understand now that being a good mother doesn’t mean I have to have a spotless house, or my children all reverently sitting in a row. I don’t need to pretend that everything is easy. A Good mother tries her best and teaches her children, by example, that eventhough this life can be extremely difficult and overwhelming, “we can do hard things”, and if we try we can see the beauty and purpose in this life.
I am grateful to be a mother. I am grateful to have 4 wonderful children that challenge me everyday. I am grateful to my heavenly father for the guidance he gives me, and the blessings he sends to remind me of his love.
I want to end with my quote for the day. It is by Gordon B. Hinckley, he said
“Don’t be gloomy. Do not dwell on unkind things. Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. Even if you are not happy, put a smile on your face. ‘Accentuate the positive.’ Look a little deeper for the good. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life.”
And I will add that we need to accept that life is difficult but that is ok, because we were made to do hard things, and we can accomplish anything.