At some point during pregnancy or soon thereafter, parents create a mental contract, a mother's commitment. It begins with a promise to provide warmth, food, safety, affection, and most of all; love. We learn our lives are not our own.
And it's ok.
Somehow, time alone, adventures and a peaceful cup of coffee turned into babbles, silly songs, diarrhea marathons and sleep-deprivation caused delirium.
But that's ok.
As our children grow, we add to the mother's commitment. We promise to provide socialization, education, community, enrichment, opportunity, and encouragement. We morph into playschool, dance and hockey parents enduring off-key music recitals, endless road trips, emergency room visits, end-of-the-world melt downs, and attitudes that make you wish you got a puppy instead of a child.
We rise and fall, live and learn, grow and change with our child. Always doing our heartfelt best to meet their needs by becoming their teacher, counsellor, maid, cook, nurse, advisor, chauffeur, advocate and evil, irritating, and hypocritical personal slave.
But that's ok.
As parents we follow an unwritten mother's commitment, a end-goal of sorts that explains why we raise children. Our actions, beliefs, trials and tribulations, failures, and victories all amount to the outcome of guiding our child to be a content, self-sustaining and independent adult. An adult with options, dreams and desires for the creation of their own world.
We feel sadness and joy when our child feels secure and confident enough to go out on their own. Paving their way through sacrifice, tears, laughter and a lack of appreciation, we hope to send them off to college where they can sample young adult life and hopefully, not end up in jail. We watch them go, we cry, we reflect and we do an inward (occasionally outward) jump for joy.
Often parents will then make the decision to travel, sell the now-too-large family home or take time to celebrate raising a child. It almost feels like time to buy a fancy car or travel trailer, condo with snow removal or a trip to a sandy white beach with no cell service for a year. After all, we just worked our butt off for 18 years.
Sounds wonderful doesn't it? This beautiful goal, this amazing accomplishment.
What if your child has disabilities? Does the plan change? What will the outcome be then?
These questions are countless more are those that I have asked myself as have many other terrified parents of a child with a disability. What now?
Maybe your pregnancy didn't turn out the way you had hoped, maybe there was an accident, maybe you don’t understand why but your plan is much different. Perhaps, your plan includes late milestones, endless hours of crying from touching food, tags on shirts, the wrong word spoken, a broken toy. Maybe your plan includes endless medications and doctor visits, surgeries, public ignorance, sleepless nights, a wheelchair, fears beyond your wildest imagination and even a failed marriage.
Your plan is different, your outcome is not what you expected but you made a commitment.
My mother's commitment to my son with disabilities remains the same.... I will love him and provide him with whatever it takes to meet his needs. But I will not be traveling the world nor buying a sports car. I will not be looking for a condo or having a party when he branches out into the world independently.
I am taking on battles with funding agencies, training support workers, teaching social and life skills, creating support plans, a lifetime advocacy, and requests for countless services. I am learning to reach vision skills, orientation/mobility skills, risk management, self-regulation techniques, seizure avoidance, self-advocacy, and appropriate communication.
My plan looks different, though, it will include an outcome of my son being the most independent man he can be. It may include college, a family, a career and life that will look different but will be no less amazing and wonderful. I made a commitment and my mother's commitment means that my son will need much more of me than my other children. A commitment that means a different future than what I planned.
How have your plans in life changed as a parent? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.
Elizabeth Eckert is a proud Mom to 4 amazing children and the Author of “When I Died”. Visit her blog to read a variety of inspirational articles at http://www.authorelizabetheckert.com/category/blog/