Bittersweet Parenting

I was sitting in church Sunday singing a good ol’ gospel hymn about heaven. One of those talking about getting up and walking around heaven. I love good old-fashioned hymns, but this one brought tears to my eyes. All I could think about was my little girl not being able to walk. I know it is silly to cry about something that may or may not happen, but in that moment I just felt an overwhelming sadness that she was missing out on so much.

Abigail just turned three. She has never sat up by herself to play with her toys. She has never felt grass beneath her bare feet as she runs through a sprinkler. She has never tripped and fallen over her toys spread throughout the house. She is forced to go wherever people take her. She is at the mercy of whomever she is with. She has no control over when she stands or when she sits. It is all dictated by others.

Of course she knows no difference. She has no idea she is missing out on a whole world of independent living. She is happy as a clam being able to army crawl around the house and letting us do everything else. She has no idea how small her world is. How limited she is, and how dependent she is on others. In her world she can do anything and everything, and she tries her hardest to make that a reality.

Abigail will get her wheelchair tomorrow. It is hot pink, and we are hoping she will be able to one day (a long time down the road) be able to crawl into it herself and push her own chair. Again, we are a long way from that, but that’s our end goal. I have been excited about this chair for a while now. I am excited she will have a way to get around, and I pray she can push herself in it easily. This chair will bring us some freedom. But it is a little bittersweet. Who wants their child to be confined to a chair? Of course, Abigail is an odd situation where she won’t be in the chair a lot. She does have the potential to walk and crawl, so that’s our end goal and all her teachers and therapists will be working to get her out of the chair and walking on her own. But the chair means she isn’t quite there yet. The chair will bring stares from strangers. The chair will bring pity. The chair will define her as different. Right now strangers don’t have any idea how far behind Abigail is. To them she is just a cute toddler in pink glasses in the grocery store shopping cart. She can get by with her cuteness. But put that same cutie in a hot pink wheel chair and you then invite questions of ‘what is wrong with her?’ ‘She looks normal, but why is she in that chair?’ So we are about to open a can of worms when we take her out and about now. I don’t know if I am ready for all the stares and questions. How do I explain Abigail? I don’t even know what’s going on with her.

All these thoughts have been running in my head these last few days. I know we will make it through. Soon the stares and the questions won’t even phase me. I know I’ll be able to answer people the right way when (and if) the time comes. My prayer is that I always honor my Lord and give my child encouragement in all my responses. I want people to see children who are a little different and know the right things to say. Maybe I can be the educational instrument to guide people’s questions in the right direction when it comes to special needs children. So many people don’t know how to talk to a special needs family. They don’t know how to ask their questions simply because they have never walked in their shoes.

If you ever wonder how it feels to have a special needs child I would tell you it is one of the most rewarding but hardest things you will ever go through. It is draining. It is hard work. It is frustrating. It is lonely. It is disappointing. It is demanding. But it is also rewarding. It teaches you so much about yourself and about that sweet child you are raising. It bonds you and your child like nothing ever could. It teaches you about sacrifice and selflessness. It opens a door to a community you never knew existed. I once read a book that gave a good picture of what I’m taking about. This is an excerpt from Andrew and Rachel Wilson’s book, The Life We Never Expected.

“Discovering your children have special needs is like being given an orange.

You’re sitting with a group of friends in a restaurant. You’ve just finished a decent main course, and are about to consider the dessert menu when one of your friends gets up, taps their glass with a spoon, and announces that they have bought desserts for everyone as a gift. They disappear around the corner, and return a minute later with an armful of spherical objects about the size of tennis balls, beautifully wrapped, with a bow on each one.

As they begin distributing the mysterious desserts, everyone starts to open them in excitement, and one by one the group discovers that they have each been given a Chocolate Orange. Twenty segments of rich, smooth, lightly flavoured milk chocolate: a perfect conclusion to a fine meal, and a very sociable way of topping off an enjoyable evening. You begin to unwrap the object in front of you.

But you’ve been given an orange. Not a chocolate orange; an actual orange. Eleven erratically sized, pith-covered segments with surprisingly large pips in annoying places; requiring a degree in engineering in order to be peeled properly. You stare at it with a mixture of surprise, disappointment and confusion. The rest of the table hasn’t noticed. They’re too busy enjoying their chocolate.

You pause to reflect. There’s nothing wrong with oranges, you say to yourself. They are sharp, sweet, refreshing and zesty. Looked at from a number of perspectives – medical, dietary, environmental – you have been given a better dessert than everyone else. And you didn’t have a right to be given anything anyway.

But your heart sinks, all the same. An orange was not what you expected; as soon as you saw everyone else opening their chocolate, you simply assumed that is what you would get, too. Not only that, but this wasn’t what you wanted. And because you’re surrounded by other people, you have to come to terms with the   sheer unfairness of being given your orange, while your friends share, laugh about and celebrate theirs. A nice meal has taken an unexpected turn, and you suddenly feel isolated, disappointed and frustrated.  

Discovering that your kids have special needs is like that.”

Yes, that’s my Abigail. She is no chocolate orange, but I love her all the same. She is juicy and messy and very good for me. Honestly, I would choose to have another orange at this point. Oranges are my normal now and I wouldn’t even know what to do with a special treat like a chocolate orange. So even though it’s a little more work and a little more messy I am thankful for my real orange. She brings such joy and flavor to our life! I am excited to start a new adventure in a pretty pink wheelchair. And I invite any questions from you or from onlookers. Please, never be afraid to encourage a special needs parent you see out and about. The very fact that they came out with their child is a big deal. Just let them know they are amazing parents. Every parent needs encouragement and we are parents too. I mean this life is bittersweet, so I encourage you to add some sweetness to a life today!

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Bloom Where you are Planted

I love spring time. I love the newness of everything. How everything is turning green and flowers are beginning to bloom. How winter’s slumber is being shaken off, and life is awakening. Springtime just brings a pep in your step and a song in your heart. At least it does me. And goodness knows getting outside helps all those winter blues fade away. The weather was gorgeous today and I could not help thinking that springtime is coming!

I bought this cute springy shirt for Abigail a few months ago and it was perfect for today! Bright yellow with a huge flower on it! It instantly made me think of the saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” I’ve never thought much about it before, but that saying applies so much to Abigail. So today she wore her yellow shirt proudly, because Abigail is most definitely blooming where she is planted!

I was told my baby’s eyes were not normal at two months old. We instantly thought blindness, but today her vision is perfect! Yes, she wears glasses to help her eyes stay focused, but her vision is perfect. Abigail is known for those cute pink glasses, and countless strangers brag abt them. Even in the face of bad eyesight, Abigail is blooming!

First day in those pink glasses!

At four months we were told that Abigail had low muscle tone – hypotonia (they call it floppy baby syndrome). She has met zero milestones. She cannot hold herself up. Carrying her is like carrying a bag of potatoes. She is so heavy and does not help at all! She stays under the ten percentile because she has no muscles and muscles weigh more than fat. But despite all this Abigail is crawling! She has mobility. She is pushing up and she wants to stand so bad. She can sit with minimal assistance. She is doing things that amaze everyone. In spite of her diagnoses, Abigail is blooming!

Abigail cannot keep up with other children. They move too fast for her. Children her age are too advanced for her and run away before she can play. And children younger than her just want her glasses or her hair which scares her. But she is getting so much better around children. She has been crawling around with her nephews and they pass toys to her. In music class she is brave enough to get down on the floor and crawl around now. She is talking and laughing in class which means she is getting more comfortable around other toddlers. Even with her fears, Abigail is blooming!

In every area I feel like Abigail is blooming. She is becoming stronger, more social, and she is growing every day! Abigail has no idea that she is developmentally behind. She has no idea she is unique. She has no idea that she lives a very weird life compared to a normal three year old. She is one of the happiest children you will ever meet. She is smart. She is kind. And she is going to do BIG things!

I just feel like if this little girl who has so much against her can bloom where she is planted then we all can. I would never wish this life on any child. But I am a proud mama because even in the worst of situations and what life has to throw at her my daughter is blooming. She is a determined little fighter. She is fiercely independent and a little rebel at heart. All this makes her a force to be reckoned with. She is going to knock down barriers and is going to make miracles. Abigail will be able to bloom wherever she is planted!

Growing Up Slowly

When you have a child time seems to speed up somehow. In just a few short months Abigail will be three years old. Where has three years gone? I still remember being pregnant with her. I had horrible night sickness (my morning sickness always hit around 3 and stayed all evening). And around week 12 I remember having multiple thoughts that I was going to die at any point, but the only thing that kept me going was that I was growing another life, and her life mattered too much to give up. But here we are almost three years later and I am glad I kept shoving food down my throat after all because having Abigail was worth all those weeks of sickness.

I have no idea how parents of typical children do it though. I mean an average child is sitting by six months and is walking by a year. They start talking and being independent. They get sassy and push the limits and they know where every button of yours is. Your baby grows up in a blink of an eye! You might get a few cuddles here are there but after they are mobile they don’t sit still for long. Again I just don’t know how you do it!

We have been so blessed in a weird way that Abigail has grown up so slowly. I’ve never thought about that before, but it hit me the other day we are getting a small blessing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong I wish everyday my little girl could walk and run and play like every other 2 year old. I cry that she cannot communicate the way she wants to. But even in the bad things and the things that don’t make sense I truly believe you receive little blessings in disguise. Sometimes you don’t see those blessings while you are in the middle of the storm, but they are there. Abigail herself is my blessing. She is an amazing little lady! But the fact that, as a mother, I get to soak in every stage a little longer is amazing!!!

We had a newborn basically for about 10-12 months. For Abigail’s first year of life she really wasn’t aware of her environment. She just loved watching people’s faces. She had barely any head control and her muscle tone was basically none existent. She was exclusively breast fed, which was not my choice but she wouldn’t eat baby food very well so we did what we had to do. That first year was hard!! Abigail did not show a lot of progress. We had no idea what was going on. We had no clue how to take care of a baby, much less a baby that doctor’s kept telling us ‘wasn’t normal.’ The doctors kept telling us things that we didn’t understand or that we didn’t like. We loved our baby and she was the happiest, easiest newborn ever so it was hard for us to see anything ‘wrong’ with her. Around a year old she was still around 5-6 months developmentally, so I got to savor those newborn moments for longer.

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Abigail around 7 months – she was still the sweetest thing you ever saw! But she had no interest in those toys you see. We always tried new things though.

Then her second year of life came and things started to progress. She became more aware of her environment, she started to like food, and she showed true potential physically. We began to learn we didn’t have to listen to everything the doctors said. We began to learn the system and find things that were helpful for us. We had amazing therapists that encouraged me and worked with Abigail diligently. But I was still able to savor those baby moments longer because she was around a 6-9 month old developmentally.

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This picture means the world to me! Abigail was around 15 months in this picture. I left her on the couch to go get ready (crazy huh? but she never moved so it worked for us), and I returned to a smiley baby and an overturned bucket of toys! I snapped a quick picture because I was so excited! This was the first time Abigail had ‘played’ on her own!!!

Today, we have hope like we have never had before. Abigail is doing the best she has ever done. She is eating (and a lot of times helping herself) normal table food, she is moving, she is learning to play in new ways, and she is trying to communicate like never before. We are in such an exciting time! I feel so much more confident in what I am doing. Medically Abigail is healthy and at this point her doctor is simply trying to find the cause of why she is the way she is. But if they never give us an answer I will be okay because she is progressing forward every day.

Abigail is still only around a year old developmentally maybe 18 months in some areas cognitively. But if course she cannot sit or stand yet. But for almost three years I have gotten to savor what most parents only have 1 year to experience. It is like time has slowed in our house. This means we get to see the tiny little steps of progress and we celebrate the tiny victories. This means that sometimes the days are long! I get tired of having to lug her everywhere, because goodness she is getting heavy!! Sometimes it would be so convenient if she could sit because we could do so many more things. Sometimes I have to be creative while we are out, and about, and going to a bathroom with her in a public restroom when I forget the stroller is a trip. But I am savoring!

We may be in the toddler stage for a long time. Honestly, she may never leave it. We have no idea what Abigail’s future holds. I tell people all the time. Abigail has the potential to be a 100% normal 5th grader who you wouldn’t even know went through all this when she was 2. On the other hand she could be living with us forever because she never leaves childhood mentally. We have no idea what her future holds. But right now I know we are hitting the toddler stage hard, and after 2 years of being in baby stage that is tough on this mama. I’m watching Abigail grow and mature everyday. I see my baby growing into a little girl. She is beautiful in every way!! And while she might not be growing up like every other toddler, I appreciate that she is growing slowly. It gives my mama heart time to soak in every moment, every change, and every day with my little sunshine. While I wouldn’t have chosen this life for us, I am blessed to have a little one who is growing up slowly.

Our Tummy Time Adventures

Oh tummy time! I am not here today to write about the benefits of tummy time, or put my two sense into the debate. I know doctors and therapists will say some things and moms will say others. Today is just our story with tummy time, and the progress Abigail has made in her two and a half years of life. I personally have a love/hate relationship with tummy time. It was a lot more hate in the beginning, but that was because Abigail hated it. But today she rocks tummy time like a champ. Actually, I don’t know if you can consider it tummy time anymore for her. It is more like her way of life now. So funny how time changes things!

Abigail has never been a cuddly baby. Even as a newborn we would put her on her little play mat on her back and leave her in the living room while we went to fix lunch or dinner for ourselves. She was just content to lie there and stare at her toys, so that’s what we did. But around a month old she flipped over from her back to her stomach on her own. She only did it a handful of times for that week, but we were so excited for her! Thankfully we have a video of it because no one would believe that knowing  Abigail’s journey now. But she did not start rolling and flipping over again until she was about 9 months old and even then it was sporadic at best. This past summer is when the rolling and flipping became a permanent part of our lives (Abigail had just turned two in May), and bedtime became a thing of the past.

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Abigail, 8 months – tummy time was quite a struggle even with our fancy equipment.

We began therapy with Abigail at five months. Of course, her therapists loved and encouraged tummy time. But at this point of Abigail’s life she had zero head control, so tummy time was a struggle. Abigail’s head would just bob uncontrollably until she just could not take it anymore and start crying. Tummy time might have lasted 2 minutes at a time. It was a rough time for poor Abigail. She hated it! She would much rather prefer being on her back or sitting on the couch. We tried everything from boppy pillows, tummy time pillows, toys to try to encourage her on her tummy, but she just was not having it. At this point Abigail was not interested in any toys or her environment really. She has always loved people, so we could make her laugh and giggle and that’s about all she liked to play with was other people.

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Abigail, 15 months – tummy time was not as much of a struggle but she still couldn’t lift her head up fully.

Finally, around a year old she had pretty stable head control so tummy time became a little better, but it still was not great. But she could more easily play with toys and tummy time became a little better. It was not until she learned she could have some mobility this past year thought that tummy time became Abigail’s favorite position! It all started with learning she could push on her scooter board.

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Do you think she liked her scooter??

Then she learned to push herself backwards, and it was only a matter of time that the army crawl was founded. Today, she practically lives on her tummy. After she eats breakfast until the time she goes to bed, she is on her tummy all day playing, moving, and exploring. It is the best way for her to play for now since she cannot sit up, and the only way she can get around. She loves being on her tummy. You would have no idea that two years ago tummy time was a taboo word in our house – that this little girl you see could not even keep her big ole’ noggin off the ground for more than two minutes.

I know that crawling around on the ground is not the end goal. I know that constantly being on her tummy is not good for Abigail’s digestive system. I know that it would be so much better if Abigail could sit and play. But to see her progress these last two years is amazing. If you had told me that Abigail would one day love being on her tummy I would have laughed at you two years ago. Yes, we have a long ways to go, and we will keep pushing Abigail. We struggled with tummy time for so long, but the therapists kept saying it would help her strengthen her neck and core, and would you know that it took months and months of tears and struggles but her neck and core are so much stronger now. Hard work is hard, but goodness that little girl is a fighter and I am so proud of her. I am proud of her struggles and her triumphs. I am proud that she does not give up. I am proud of her stubbornness and determination. I know we have a lot more to achieve, but it is nice to be able to say that Abigail now rocks tummy time! If she can conquer this than what else is she capable of???

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Today, you can barely get Abigail off the floor while on her tummy. She loves tummy time, playing, and having mobility!!

A Trip to Chili’s

How do you explain to a two-year-old about special needs? How do you explain to her that a little girl her own age cannot do the things you can do because her legs don’t work quite right? We came face to face with this situation this weekend, and I have been pondering these things myself.

My mother-in-law and her husband took Abigail and me out to dinner Saturday night just so we could get out of the house for a bit. We had been home for over two days and I was going a little stir crazy, so we all packed up and went to Chili’s down the road from our house. Well apparently everyone in town was stir crazy or didn’t want to cook (or couldn’t because they didn’t have power) because everyone was at Chili’s. So we sat with another family that came in before us in the waiting area for about 15 minutes. What a 15-minute wait that was!

The family consisted of a young mother, her two children (a little girl we soon discovered was only two months older than Abigail and her little brother who was about 6 months I am guessing), and the mother’s parents. They were a sweet family and we instantly started talking about the snow and road conditions and power outages. My mother-in-law was holding Abigail, and I was across from them in the other seat. They were sitting right beside the little girl and her mother.

The little girl and Abigail were having a staring contest. You see Abigail loves watching children. I think they fascinate her. The little girl finally got brave enough to ask Susan (my mother-in-law) what Abigail’s name was, so Susan told her and asked her name. She was the cutest little girl with light up rain galoshes on. Susan asked her how old she was and she said three, so the mother had to chime in and say she was only two. We couldn’t believe that she was Abigail’s age. Her mother said she was in the 97th percentile. Abigail is in the 10th, so you can only imagine what the size difference between them was. I explained to the adults that Abigail had special needs, so that might be one reason she seemed so tiny. Well the little girl couldn’t comprehend Abigail was two just like her. She kept saying she was only one, and Susan kept telling her, ‘no she’s two just like you.’

Well everything was going peachy until the little girl asked if Abigail could get down and play with her. Susan told the little girl that Abigail couldn’t leave her lap. Her mother tried to tell her that Abigail’s legs don’t work like hers and of course the why question kept coming. You could tell everyone was getting a little tense with not knowing what to say. Then the little girl asked if Abigail could sit beside her. Of course another round of ‘no’s’ and ‘why not’s’ commenced. So Susan finally told her she could play with her but Abigail would have to sit in her lap. I knew this was going to go poorly the moment that little girl stepped towards Abigail. Abigail loves looking at kids, but she does not like kids in her bubble much less touching her. Well that sweet little girl so lovingly held Abigail’s hands. It truly was the cutest thing, and I wished I could have taken a picture. But all the touching was way too much for Abigail.

I calmly got up from my seat anticipating Abigail’s freak out, and it came quickly. Her bottom lip quivered (a sure sign tears were coming). I scooped Abigail up, and the mother was like did my daughter do anything? “No, not a thing. She was the sweetest to Abigail, but Abigail cannot tolerate children. I am so sorry.” The little girl’s face crumbled. I told her she did nothing wrong and that Abigail was going to be okay. I had to walk away to calm Abigail down and when I got back the family had been seated. I told my mother-in-law everything was good. Abigail was back to laughing and dancing to the holiday music in no time. And when we left we stopped by the family’s table and wished them a goodnight. The little girl waved good-bye, so I knew she was okay too.

But goodness, what a situation! It really was not a big deal probably to anyone else, but those 10 minutes rocked my world. This is my life. No one knows how to react when you say special needs. I felt so awful for that little girl and her family. I know they had no idea what to say or do to explain Abigail. I was no help either. Looking back I should have taken Abigail and showed the girl how Abigail’s legs don’t work right. I should have held her and had a ‘dance’ party in my lap while the little girl stood beside us. There are 15 different things I could have done now looking back. But I sat there and watched this family meet a special needs little girl for the first time with no explanation.

I know it’s not a big deal. They probably won’t even remember us tomorrow, but I will never forget this. I know situations like this will come again. Children will ask questions, and I will have to answer to them and their families. I will have to explain why at two a little girl cannot walk or talk or even sit. I don’t know if I will have all the answers, but I hope to help and encourage as we go. Explaining special needs to a two-year-old is tough, but I hope that little girl stays as loving and sweet as she was that night. And I pray that one day Abigail will accept a sweet handhold from a fellow pier. That little girl’s hand in my child’s hand tonight meant the world to me. I know it was brief, but it shows bridges can be gapped and my daughter can be accepted. Such a simple thing, but such a huge Christmas blessing – a simple hand hold from a sweet little two-year-old girl at a Chili’s restaurant.

Her Stubbornness

Stubbornness runs in our family. My grandparents were and still are entrepreneurs, making glass wind chimes now for over 40 years. Jordan’s grandparents are still active and going and his grandfather still works 8-5 at his job at 72 years old. The stubbornness shows itself in our parents as well. And goodness does it show up in us! We can never decide on who is more stubborn between Jordan and me because we are too stubborn to admit who is more stubborn. We are a mess! So then you have two very stubborn people make a baby, and guess what? That baby is as stubborn as both parents put together.

Stubbornness is often seen as a bad thing, and often it is. It prevents you from seeing the other side of the argument.  It keeps you from listening to wise council. It stops you from enjoying things you could otherwise enjoy. But as stubborn as Abigail is, I am very thankful for that quality in her. Sure it is annoying when you try to tell her no and she just keeps doing what she was doing while laughing in your face. Sure I would like her to actually do what I say instead of what Abigail wants to do all the time. And sure we butt heads a lot and I get very annoyed with her. But that stubbornness in her is what makes her a little miracle child.

Let me explain. So our journey all began at Abigail’s two month check up. Everything was great and we had a perfectly healthy little baby in our arms, except the doctor told us he was very concerned with her vision. We knew she had wonky eyes, but we figured all newborns had poor vision, well apparently not this bad. Here are some pictures from Abigail’s first year. You can see how she constantly looked up.

We saw two eye doctors and one neurologist at this point and none of them could explain Abigail’s vision. But by 18 months her eyes had corrected themselves with no help from anyone. Her eyes simply came down by themselves. We worked on some tracking exercises and things like that with her OT, but that’s it. Her eyes still get cross eyed and a little shaky today so that is why Abigail wears her glasses, but compared to how they looked when she was 3 months old her eyes look perfect.

Her stubbornness is vital for Abigail because without her motivation to want to move and play and be little Miss Independent she would not be improving. Yes, her therapists are amazing and I am beyond grateful for each of them. Yes, working with her at home helps. But it is Abigail who wants to pull herself around. It is Abigail who wanted to start feeding herself. We tried for almost two years to make that kid feed herself and she never would hold a scrap of food, and then one day I just laid some goldfish on her tray to feed her and she picked them up and put them in her mouth like she was a feeding expert. Until Abigail wants to do something she does not do it. I know she can get herself around and I try to make her pull herself if I just go in to the next room. But she refuses to move until she wants to.

I truly believe if Abigail has a will she has a way. If she is willing to work and move and play then she does. She has shown that these last few months. Her awareness and wanting to move around has come out of no where and now she scoots and pulls and plays like never before. I still do not know where the motivation to move came from, but I wish I knew! But when the day comes for her to be ready to stand on those wobbly little legs of her I know she will be stubborn enough to figure out what she needs to. I always tell people that for being one of the most dependent toddlers in the world, Abigail is the most independent little thing you will ever meet. I know that spells trouble for Jordan and me as she gets older, but for now I love that she is a little stubborn, independent little blonde headed ball of motivation.

 

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A Musing Mother

It happened again. We were in the waiting room of our doctor’s office waiting for Abigail’s eyes to dilate so we could go back to see the doctor. Abigail was in my lap eating goldfish and watching all the other children running around. Me and her are good people watchers. One particular father was having issues keeping track of his son. The little boy kept wanting to run away and run straight out the door, so the dad kept running around after him only for the son to escape again. At one point the dad sat down across from us and tried to offer his son his own goldfish, to try to entice him to be still for a minute I am sure. The dad made a passing comment that made me cringe inside. He turned to his son and said, “Why can’t you be calm like that little girl?”

It is not the first time that comment has been made about Abigail. Obviously, she is calmer than a typical two-year-old. I mean she can’t move for goodness sake. And this was not our first rodeo in a crowded doctor’s office full of typical kids. So you can imagine when parents are chasing after running toddlers, and trying to keep their young children occupied in a boring office that seeing my child just sitting in my lap calmly chowing down on her snacks could easily make you jealous. I mean selfishly does not every parent want an Abigail who does not move and get into things and all the normal toddler things that toddlers do? A selfish parent wants an Abigail, but a parent with any bit of love for their child would never wish this on their child.

I wish I could tell that father that he really does not want his son to be calm like Abigail. I wish I had the time to explain our story, but a crowded doctor’s office is not the place. That dad wouldn’t care. If anything we would just get all the pity stares from everyone when I explained why Abigail was sitting in my lap and not running around. We receive enough pity stares already, so we do not need those either. My favorite response from strangers are the ones when they comment on how cute Abigail is, or how her pink glasses are adorable, or how blonde her hair is. I just want to stop and thank those lovely strangers for taking time to talk to us and to see my girl for who she is and not what she can’t do. I know these comments will decrease and the pity stares will increase as Abigail gets bigger and we actually have to use her new adaptive stroller or wheelchair more. Kids in wheelchairs are different and our society does not like different. Right now that only thing that sets Abigail apart from a typical toddler (at least from what a stranger can see) are her glasses and we get so many comments about those!

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Abigail’s newest wheels – the adaptive stroller. We haven’t used it a lot but I think when we do this thing will get some attention.

“Why can’t you be calm like her.” I won’t ever forget that small comment. I would not wish any parent to have a child with special needs. It is a whole different world (that I am only beginning to learn about) that comes with struggles, heartaches, and a dash of hope. While I am thankful for our journey and I could not be more blessed to be a mom of a special needs child, I want more than anything for Abigail to be normal. I want her to be able to be the independent child that she thinks she is. I want her to be able to walk and run and just be a kid. I want her to play pretend with her baby dolls and help my bake a cake. I want her to talk my ear off in the backseat and tell me what a cat says. I want her to learn her ABCs and sing made up songs to me before nap time. Oh these are just some smalls dreams I want. I know she is progressing daily, and for every baby step we just cannot believe it. As long as she is moving forward we know there is hope that one day she could do all these things.

What I would say for any parent of young children out there is that I know the days are long. I know you are tired and maybe even burnt out. I know toddlers are crazy! I know you have amazing days and then you have some horrible days. But please don’t take these days for granted. Be thankful for them being toddlers. Be thankful they are learning how to be little people and how this big world works. Protect them, love them and be patient with them. Soak in every silly song, every kiss for a boo-boo, and the sound of those little feet running towards you. They grow so fast and they need you more than ever right now. And if you happen to know a parent of a special needs child, or just see one out and about please do not offer the pity stare. Just say hey like you would any other mom. Tell them their child is beautiful and get your child to wave at them. You will make that parent’s day I assure you. All a special needs parent wants is the same thing you want – someone to stop and give us a smile and say hey I notice all you’re doing and you’re rocking it!

And to all mom’s that is what I leave you with – you are rocking it! Keep going moms! Drink your coffee, take a shower, do whatever you need to do for you and then love those babies with all your heart. We are in this together, and together we can do this thing called life. So find some mom friends and encourage some mom friends and love some mom friends this week. We need each other!

mom friends