Thursday, January 1, 2015
Sitting beside my husband in the SUV littered with candy cane wrappers, blankly staring beyond the flip flap of the black wipers to the scattered colored lights making their way through the darkness, I tried to get back that feeling. Church choir music drawing out my goopy mascara tears, white puffy angels dancing down the isle, butter cookies crushed in joyful mouths, peppermint tickling tongues, golden trimmed boxes with tags whispering of joyful secrets. Isn’t that what all of the cards that were piling up on my kitchen counter were reminding me to feel?
But there was that woman. The one who chuckled and hollered at her friend across the hallway outside of church, “Imagine bringing home THAT kid on Christmas.” I followed her stare and realized she was watching my son, body flailing, hitting my husband with his coat. He was finally unraveling. After the unpredictable Christmas ceremony, the chaotic weeks at school before break, the six days at home with his siblings, and all of the bustling, music, and bright lights. His sensory overload was complete.
I wasn't feeling so great myself. I wanted so much to have the Holy Night. The perfect picture illustrated just like the storybooks. But instead, I got this. This sadness.
My head vibrated for the response, and I stared at her until she saw me, his mom. “Now imagine hearing someone talking that way about your special needs son on on Christmas.” My voice sounded surprisingly strong. Sad though. Her large lips formed a giant cave as her tongue fished around inside her expansive gloating throat for a response. Nothing.
Then she followed me, shrieking. “I didn’t know he had special needs! I’m sorry!”
She had a story, too. A reason for shaking her head at a boy who was struggling. So how could I be angry?
But what if he didn’t have special needs? What if he were a boy whose parents had just announced their impending divorce? Or a boy whose mom was recently diagnosed with cancer and had been feeling ill? Then would it be OK to laugh at him? If he didn't have special needs? I don't think so.
She wasn’t unique. She was like the countless other people—the moms, the relatives, the strangers, who see my family, my son, our CRAP, and they see us from hundreds of miles away. That distance is what hurts the most. When you only catch us for small bits of time, you don’t know our story. You don't know that we woke up hopeful that morning, Christmas clothing laid out, a schedule with each detail careful crafted. You don’t know that my husband and I calculated a plan about how to make Christmas Eve a special and simply good day for all of our children. You don’t know that our best efforts were based on years of studying and seeking support for how to help our special needs, super sensitive child and our family. Years of worry. Years of love. But our boy fell apart, despite our efforts, and there we were, in church, Christmas Eve, falling apart. That was our story.
So where is the the blessing?
I have got to learn. Learn from the tears that stain my spiral notebook as I write. This year, I’m resolving to open my tiny tiny brain to all of the amazingly large lives, the complex stories, that I misunderstand. This stuff doesn't just happen to me. I bet it happens to everyone. I want to take the time to know people, rather than to judge them. I want to hear your story!
In the meantime, I'll continue to be thankful for the people in my life who do take the time to know my story, to love me despite my crap, and who share their own. For those who know my husband and my kids... my mom, my sisters, and the friends who make it possible for me to lift my head up each day and try again.
My hope is that this motherhood journey helps me, at the very least, to treat other people like I do my son—like they are very special. With stories worth hearing.
I'm a writer, artist and mom of three kids all born within three years. I'm working on my first novel while working on essays that have been published in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Mamalode, and soon a piece will run on Brainchild Magazine's blog. My oldest child has special needs. Motherhood (and its complexities) has reshaped my ideas about God, my art, my marriage, my purpose, and especially about those who are marginalized. My passion is in sharing some of the honest pictures of life and the lessons that have come from our family struggles and our triumphs. I'm also influenced by my work with the homeless, my relationship with my father who suffers with Alzheimer's, and some of the other interesting characters I've met along my journey.