Megan Goates is a Westminster College and USU alumnus, a mother, and a blogger at Here's to Our Survival. This article written by her was on KSL today, and I loved what, and how, this woman wrote. I highlighted some of the passages; the red print are thoughts I've always thought about how our family changed with having a special needs child in our family. The blue print is me. Now. When our kids were younger our house was cleaner. The meals were more diverse. Our yard was perfection. Now? I really don't care. Perfection really can be drop-kicked down the street. I have my family and friends and I have the gospel in my life. I can't ask for anything more.
I used to be a perfect mom, but my special-needs kids taught me otherwise
SALT LAKE CITY — Ten years ago I was the perfect mom. I mean it — I really had the parenting business buttoned up.
I was a 26-year-old stay-at-home mom doing just what I had always wanted. I had finished college and graduate school and after five years of married life, I was getting down to business in the field of my dreams. I lived in a little World War II-era bungalow near Sugarhouse Park where my engineer husband worked out of his office in the basement and I spent my days caring for our darling 1-year-old son.
Every morning I brisk-walked to the park with a group of my friends. We pushed our toddlers in jogging strollers while discussing baby milestones and post-pregnancy recovery.
I started a playgroup and a book club. I canned my own strawberry jam. I volunteered at the church cannery. I handcrafted our Christmas cards. I learned to piece a patchwork quilt and hand quilted a small masterpiece. I cleaned my tiny house every Monday, took my child to the zoo every Wednesday, and visited story time at the library every Friday.
I was the president of the Young Women's organization at my church. I hiked nearby trails with my baby on my back. I took a 30-minute power nap every afternoon while he slept.
It seemed every time I left the house with my precocious strawberry-blond son, friends and strangers alike complimented me on my adorable little boy. I mean seriously, when it came to motherhood, I had nailed it.
A lot can happen in 10 years.
We now live in a bigger house and I drive a bigger car. We have four sons instead of one. I no longer can jam or hand stitch quilts or handcraft cards. I definitely do not take a nap every afternoon. But it's not just the trappings that have changed in my life.
With my second son's birth nine years ago, my family's trajectory changed in a big way. Our baby was diagnosed with a rare syndrome and autism. Beginning then, we entered the realm of different. We learned about developmental delay. We met with oodles of pediatric specialists. We aligned ourselves with Early Intervention and a support group. We stopped going out in public much because of our second child's meltdowns. Our focus turned to survival.
Everything became harder.
This year we learned that our third child also has special needs, albeit in a very different manifestation than his big brother. This turn of events has not been easier than the last diagnosis because we have done it before. If anything, it is more traumatic because we have done it before. And now there are two.
But with these diagnoses, my clan has become more of what we started to become nine years ago when the second boy arrived. We are less apt to judge people who look or act differently. We are vastly more tolerant of messes because they are our constant companions, no matter how hard we try to eradicate them.
We know the embarrassment of being a frequent public spectacle with a tantruming child. We have had practice looking past people's quirks to see the person at the core. We understand that "destruction of property" takes on a whole new meaning when special-needs children are around.
We (meaning me) are way less smug. In fact, we (me) acknowledge that most of the time, we don't know what the heck we are doing.
We have more patience with people. We have less patience for unnecessary activities, which deplete our time and energy. We've learned to sometimes say no when we are asked to do things because anything extra usually takes us past the tipping point.
We care less about stuff. We are gentler. We feel genuine empathy for someone else's hardship.
We aren't anywhere near perfect. We don't even care about perfect. We think perfect should be dropkicked down the street.
This isn't the family I envisioned as a newlywed or as a young know-it-all mom of one kid. But it's my family. And they're making me into someone I like much more than that smug 26-six-year-old who thought she had it all figured out.