March 5, 2014 by Marj Hatzell
When I had my first child, I wanted to do everything the “right” way. I read every book. I watched documentaries on parenting. I wanted to follow the rules and parent the best possible way. I wanted to emulate others. I wanted to raise an amazing child.
The problem is, this led me to question my own natural parenting abilities. I was constantly second-guessing myself. I constantly beat myself up because I couldn’t do it the “right” way. I had a quirky toddler who was GO GO GO GO GO 24 hours a day, slept like crap and spent 90% of his time running around with a plastic lawn mower or throwing himself into large, stationary objects. WHY WASN’T IT WORKING? Why wasn’t he engaged with me? Why couldn’t I sing to him as I nursed him? Why would he shove me away while I was reading him books? Why didn’t he behave himself at playgroup or library lapsit programs? I was the mom who would show up every single week, start off strong, they’d sing the opening song, and I’d be dragging him out kicking and screaming in five minutes.
Every. Single. Week.
I couldn’t get it right. I was often the outcast mom. Other parents clucked about me behind my back. When we showed up at the playground they steered their child away from my spinning, whirling, energy ball of a child. I tried and tried to calm him down. To redirect him. To make him like the others. And the next thing I knew, I was pregnant with my second child. I was an utter failure as a parent, how in the HECK was I going to raise a second child? I couldn’t even get the first one right!
And my second boy was as quirky (if not quirkier) as the first.
It was like deja vu all over again.
It wasn’t until we found out the boys had some bona fide issues that I realized why it wasn’t working. By the time they were 3 and 1 I got a clue. I boxed up the parenting books, stopped reading the “how to raise your child the right way” books, and started trusting myself.
I started doing what felt “right”.
I started parenting in a way that made sense to me.
I started letting my children be themselves and stopped comparing them to other kids their ages.
I stopped caring about the, “What your child should be doing this month or ALERT! ALERT! SOUND THE ALARM THERE MIGHT BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THEM” books. I focused on the, “LOOK WHAT HE CAN DO NOW!” books.
Was it difficult? You betcha. Was it lonely sometimes? Painful? Hard to fit in? Yes, yes and yesssss. But eventually, thanks to the magic of the internet, I found a tribe. A tribe of parents that went through EXACTLY THE SAME THING that I went through. We compared notes. We laughed and cried. And we all realized something.
Yes, we would love to fit in and be like everyone else. But we don’t, see. So we should make the best of it. Life is too doggone short to worry about everyone else. Let’s focus on ourselves instead.
I’m not always good at this. I still compare. I can’t help but think, “Gee. If Bugaboo could talk and didn’t run away and maybe had some stranger awareness, he might have gone to our neighborhood school, where Bugboy really thrived, and then he’d be in fifth grade and he would no doubt be friends with my friends’ kids and maybe in band and playing sports and in the school show and things would be so much different than they are now.”
I think it is natural to wonder what it would be like to have a different kid. But then I stop myself and think, “But here is this wonderful, happy child. This active, smart, funny little sneak who thinks it is HILARIOUS to get into rice when he knows he isn’t supposed to and drink my $$$ all natural lotions and stuff. He does AMAZING THINGS and I cannot imagine life without him just the way he is.”
And I cannot. Because I do not have that life. Instead of lamenting my sleepless nights, my ruined furniture, my frequent trips to the local children’s hospital, my lack of a social life, my three-hour IEP meetings, and the $$$ it costs to raise a disabled child, I prefer to concentrate on the fact that I have AMAZING people in my life, all because of this boy.
All because I was fortunate enough to parent them.
All because I was able to become their mother.
All because I let go of the comparisons and let us be ourselves.