Waking up, I realize there is a little hand next to me, stroking my forehead and dotting it with tiny kisses. My son found his way into our bed again. Normally, I would have my husband put him back into his own bed, but this time, I let him be. I must confess, I secretly enjoy it when I can have an impromptu snuggle session with my little boy. As a mom living with a disability, it can be hard at times, when I often find that I compare myself against other moms that I see. I can't be that mom that chases my son all over the playground, I'm usually stuck on the sidelines somewhere watching him play by himself. It's heart-wrenching for me, but I also know that if I don't take care of myself, than I will certainly be of no use to my son, who needs me in other ways.
Chronic illness struck me down when I was only 14 years-old, and just starting my high school years. I had to eventually switch to homeschooling. At the time, that seemed like the most tragic thing my illness could ever take away from me, my friends and any career potential that I may have had. Little did I know that true heartbreak wouldn't arrive until my son was born. This new little person arrived on this earth, wholly dependent on me to take care of him. What good am I with this defective body that I have? As he grows up, will he look at me differently? Will he compare me to other moms, too?
All these questions repeatedly ran through my mind, every day and every night. While I still pushed on and performed essential parenting duties like feeding him, changing him, bathing him, etc., I always felt like he was missing out, that he got the short end of the stick when he got me for a mom. As it is, since a teenager, I have been unable to work outside of the home, and that's not for lack of trying, either. But physically, it just isn't feasible for me. I just chalked it up to one more thing that I can't do as a mom.
Such negative thinking patterns took hold and rooted themselves in ever part of my life. Depression was soon a constant companion of mine, with me wherever I went. I'd look at my son and instantly feel sorry for him. These feelings eventually even spilled over into my marriage, where I would begin telling my husband to leave me and find someone better, someone who wasn't ill all the time, and someone who could go out without having to plan every meticulous little detail. These feelings eventually took over everything in my life, and I sought help.
But the road to help was a path paved with so many bumps and holes along the way. After receiving intensive therapy, I began to examine my role as a mother a little bit closer than before. Instead of comparing myself to other mothers, I tried to turn those negative thoughts around. Those thoughts that initially crippled me in the beginning of my motherhood journey, ultimately turned everything around for me. For every negative thing that was in my mind, I would counteract it with a positive thought. Sure, I may not be able to physically play with my son on the playground, but his daddy loves to do that with him, that's their special time together. I may not be able to rough-house, but daddy can. Plus, I get those special times at night when we snuggle up and read a story before he goes to sleep, and we open up his dream-box together. I soon realized that those mean as much, if not more, than the physical aspect of parenting.
The moments that I am truly in awe of my five year-old son is when he comes up to me, looks me straight in the eyes and says "You are the best mom in the world." I started crying the other day when he told me that. I even asked him, "Really, Syrus? Do you think that?" Then he throws his arms around me and hugs my neck tight. I silently shed a few more tears. He eventually notices this, and runs away, not from fear, but to grab the tissue box, snatching one up and dabbing my eyes, telling me, "Don't cry mommy! I love you a bazillion-gajillion times! I tell him I love him more. We go around in this adorable circle for a while." So he isn't ashamed of me, or my having to use mobility aides like a cane, he never says one word. I am truly in awe of how much such a young child can understand so very much.
My son is my life and my world, and there is nothing that I would not do for him. But I realized that I have to set limits for myself, because, as I said before, if I don't take care of myself, who is going to take care of my son when my husband works all day long? It's a balancing act, really. If I have to take a break, then perhaps we will watch an educational television show together. It's about taking those slow and steady small steps together. I've always believed that parenting is a journey, a learning process of the most incredible kind. I believe with all of my heart that as parents, we never stop learning about our children, even after they have grown up and moved away.