Monday, May 3, 2010
A Tribute to the Mom's That Came Before Us...
Mother's Day is Sunday and I think it is fitting that my blog this week will be a tribute to Mom's.
I want to start with the Mom's that came before us. Our mothers, grandmothers and the mom's we may not even know that have touched our lives in some way.
Tomorrow my mother-in-law will undergo surgery for invasive breast cancer. She has been in my thoughts and prayers since she told us of her diagnosis. I respect, honor and love the woman who gave birth, raised and allowed me to marry the man that I love and cherish each and every day of my life. Diana and I have shared the struggle of raising boys...not just the typical, everyday challenges but the ones that come with raising a son who learns differently, who can excel in school but has to work 2...sometimes 3 times harder than the boy or girl next to him. We know together that these challenges can be frustrating but we also understand and acknowledge the joy, uniqueness and character that is our sons. We are raising problem solvers...boys who struggled to read and write but through those struggles learned how to adapt, compensate, create and excel. We enjoy their unique personalities, wonderful senses of humor and we both know that under those tough exteriors are kind, loving and caring boys that have a heart of gold and that we can both be very proud of.
I know both Jay and Diana see what an amazing father their son has become. Jeff and Ben spend time together each and every day, Danielle and her dad gain wisdom from listening to John Tesh together and Danielle loves when her dad comes to watch her games. And then how do I even begin to describe the relationship between Jeff and Sam. I think it is important to note how high the divorce rate is for parents of special needs children, it is an astounding 85-90%. But in our case, Sam brought us much closer together...sometimes by force and other times just by being. Jeff loves Sam unconditionally, he truly believes that Sam is the best thing that ever happened to our family. It is amazing to watch how Jeff's and Sam's face light up when they see each other. Life's moments don't get much richer than that.
Diana and Jeff have a special relationship that I didn't always understand. He seemed to pick on his mom a lot, expected her to do a lot of things for him. But, now as I'm raising Ben, I think I get it. Ben and I understand and respect each other but we use humor to get us through the tough times. We have had to work closer together than most mom's and son's in order to negotiate our way through Ben's schooling. The challenges that Ben faces daily can cause a boat load of frustration that I would much rather have him take out on me at home than get him in trouble at school. From those difficult moments I get to see close up and personal how the struggle affects my child and hopefully help him through to the other side. We have been frustrated with ourselves, with each other and being able to laugh at ourselves and each other is what has taken us from a state of complete frustration to an equal playing ground again. It's part of the balance we all try to achieve. Ben requires more from me than most mom's, he may be a freshman but we still team study, brainstorm and work on papers together. I have to help him proof his work and often times help him find the right word to express his thoughts. But it is Ben's gentle smile, his sense of humor that tells me "Thanks Mom and I love you".
I'm pretty sure I would need a book to describe the way my own mom has made an impact on my life. She has travelled this journey side by side with Jeff and I. She is my sounding board, my emotional support system, my "at a moment's notice" babysitter, my friend...and honestly the best mom in the world. My mom has cried with me, laughed with me, problem solved with me, taken care of me and loved me no matter what. I can only hope that I will be the mom to my children that she has been to me. I love this passage from William Shakespeare and think of my mom when reading it:
"Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee."
When I think about my childhood, I don't have any really profound positive or negative memories but instead I have an overall comforting feeling that I was loved. My mom was always there and she was always guiding me, not telling me what to do but instead with a gentle hand and sometimes a solid shove guiding me to make good choices and teaching me to accept the consequences of my own decisions. As I look back and as I think of raising my own children I realize more and more each day that my actions, my attitude, and my behavior is forming the young adults they will become just as my mother guided me. I remember my mom's first trip to Taco Bell was her effort to cheer me up after Jeff had broken up with me early in our relationship. She was overjoyed and almost tackled Jeff the Christmas we announced our engagement. She was excited and awaited anxiously each of my children's births. The weight on my mom's shoulders doubled at the news of Sam's birth, she was weighed down by not only Sam's diagnosis but what that diagnosis would mean for her daughter. My mom prayed for me as I sat in the ICU with Sam feeling unsure if I was going to walk out of there with him or not. She babysat for Sam and experienced first hand the fear that occurs when a child stops breathing and even after that she continued to babysit for him when I needed a break or a couple of hours of sleep. She has been there for me through the good, the bad and the ugly. I love you Mom, more than you will ever know!!
My grandmothers were characters in their own right. My writing ability probably stems from my grandmother Olive Runge. Olive stayed in touch with so many people by writing handwritten letters, now a lost art. I still remember her, "Ach weh", and the ever favorite "Ach du lieber Himmel!" She crocheted just about anything you could think of and ruled the roost from her favorite chair. My grandmother Edna Fruzen probably gave me the tenacity and strong will that has served me well through the years. But best of all, these two women gave me the most amazing parents in the world. Thank you, Olive and Edna.
Now on to the amazing mom's that have touched my life but I have never had the opportunity to know or thank. These are the special needs mom's that forged the path before me, that fought to have our children medically treated, that fought to have our children attend school, that blazed the trail and have now passed that mission on to us. These are the mom's that turned away from their doctor's recommendations to institutionalize their baby with Down syndrome and instead took them home and loved them. These are the mom's whose stories of their adult children continue to inspire me and encourage me each day.
As I write about my mother-in-law, my mom, my grandparents and the special needs mom's that forged the path before me I am reminded of the gift we call "motherhood". How each of us is touched and influenced by generations of mom's. For some it may not be a biological mom but instead a person who acted as a "mother" to them. I don't think you could ever come up with a perfect definition of motherhood...I think it is more of a feeling, a knowledge of sorts. I will leave you with yet two quotations that I think describe it best.
“A mother understands what a child does not say.”
The Mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother's side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother and to become fully independent.- Erich Fromm