This is a letter I have written to a friend of mine as she struggles with two young children with very specific needs. Sometimes we only see the problems that these needs create – but we all need to remember that the real story is much bigger than just that. (I preach to myself here.)
My dearest friend,
I see you and your two boys and my heart smiles. They are beautiful boys – full of life and love, and that indefinable something that is boy-ness. You’re doing a fantastic job with both of them, and I admire your courage.
I wasn’t there much when no 1 arrived – I was fighting my own battles – but I think you have done an amazing job. There are mothers around the world that would be walking around with a handheld vacuum cleaner to make sure that there are no reactive foodstuffs nearby, and yet you don’t. You have let me cook for your child, and hold his hand as we went around the museum. Watching Little Person with him has given me hope. These are gifts that you have given me, and I will treasure them always. Your son #1 has a brilliant sense of humour, and an adventurous spirit that the trials of his life have not quelled. This is no doubt due to your parenting, the active and considered decisions you have made, and I commend you for that.
I remember when you sat on my swing bench in the warm afternoon sun, hand upon your giant swollen belly, laughing and full of hope. I remember watching son #2 eating rice cakes and both of us being so sure that this time, definitely, there was no issue. You would not have to walk that road again. (I remember watching Little Person as a toddler with bated breath, thinking that I, too, had dodged a very specific bullet.) And now, you walk a harder path than either of us thought possible.
I can tell you this. He won’t remember the visits to the hospital at this young age. I know, because I don’t remember my earliest hospital visits. He will remember that you always loved him, always held him close, always took care of him. He will never know how strong you have had to be, how much each of these trials has taken out of you. Come to that, I will never know either. But I know this: if mothers were athletes, you would be the ultra-marathoner.
It would be great to just be a normal mummy, watching your normal baby develop into a normal toddler and on to a normal child. But you are more than a normal Mummy. You have walked shadows of this road before – your life to this point has equipped you for the road ahead. Your children are brave and beautiful. You are brave and beautiful. Your husband is strong and courageous. See the good job you have done with son #1? I know you will do a good job with son #2. I can see it in the merry twinkle in his eyes, that he knows that life can be fun, and interesting and good. Son #2 is an explorer too.
But what of the hopes and dreams of that summery day? Well, there is still a lifetime to be lived. My swing bench in still here. You can laugh on it, you can cry on it, and in wintertime you can look out on it and be glad that it’s okay to not be a normal mummy. You are more than a normal Mummy – you are a normal Mummy doing extraordinary things. My home, and my heart, will always be open to you, as a place of celebration and solace, of acceptance and affirmation. I want my home, and my memories to be full of the sound of your boys’ laughter for many years to come. These days are hard, but they will be but a footnote. The real story is just beginning.
I believe in you. And I am so glad that you are in my life – all of you.