First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage? Not so much – at least not anymore. Nowadays, there isn’t a “typical” journey to becoming a mom, nor is there a “typical” experience of motherhood.
Before you actually become a mom, the parenting process you see on TV seems like the ideal. Watching The Cleavers or The Brady Bunch or even Modern Family makes parenting seem challenging, but completely doable and, dare I say, fun. These TV families portray a group of people muddling through family life, overcoming challenges, teaching important life lessons and wrapping up any and all problems within 30 minutes.
As you probably already know, reality doesn’t always look like that. I use the term “A-Typical” to apply to any situation in which the mainstream options don’t apply. This means, for example, if your child isn’t considered a “regular kid” or “normal”. If your child has special needs, or physical, emotional or mental issues that separate him or her from the other kids at school. “A-Typical” applies to any child who simply doesn’t fit the mold, who can’t just get dropped off at school at the end of the block, who doesn’t thrive in the one-size-fits-all world of traditional education, and who requires specialized care and attention.
Parenting an A-Typical child is not easy…
So, if you find yourself living in an A-Typical world, how exactly do you handle it? The truth is, there’s no easy answer.
When my son was young, there weren’t as many options available as there are today, but that doesn’t mean parenting an A-Typical child has gotten easier. In today’s day and age, there is so much information to find and digest, so many choices to make and decisions to weigh – and we still don’t get any guarantees. Nothing is black and white when you’re parenting an A-Typical child. If anything, the gray area has gotten bigger with all the new options, and the onus for making the “right choice” and finding the solution that will make everything okay falls squarely on you and your spouse’s shoulders.
And you are a SUPERWOMAN for doing what you do…
Here’s what I do know: the moms of A-Typical kids are going through hell. They are the most amazing, devoted, loyal, tenacious and damn funny group of women you’ll ever have the privilege of meeting, and life has given them a lot of material to work with. Whether these moms are parenting children who are high-functioning or severely disabled, they all have one thing in common: the overwhelming desire to do absolutely everything within their power to maximize their child’s potential and give him or her the best life possible. And let me tell you, they are superwomen.
They are advocates for their children. They fight the school systems, government bureaucracy, insurance companies and anything and anyone else preventing their children from receiving the care they need and deserve. They get a crash course in medical terminology and protocol, a working knowledge of the law and an intimate, up-close-and-personal relationship with the school system behind the scenes. And they do this all while meeting the demands of raising a child whose needs alone could bring out the witch-woman in any one of us.
Why I do what I do….
The silent component of this struggle, and the reason why I do what I do, is because of the price these moms pay. Somewhere along the line, something’s gotta give, and you know as well as I do that if someone’s going to suffer, it’s going to be the mother. Moms of A-Typical children sacrifice everything – their energy, dreams, goals, aspirations and relationships – all in the name of motherhood (or fatherhood, as the situation may be).
So – if you’re in these ranks let me say loud and clear: THANK YOU.
Thank you for never giving up, and for providing us all with a world where our gifts – however “unusual” they may be – can become a part of the collective, beautiful whole.
If you haven’t been personally blessed with an amazing and A-Typical child but want to restore a bit of your faith in humanity, stop and take a look around. I guarantee you won’t have to look too far; moms of A-Typical children are everywhere. We’re brave on the outside but scared on the inside, and we’re helping our kids march to the beat of their own drum.