There are so many days in motherhood where you celebrate with your children as they achieve milestones and goals. Those days are filled with lots of cheers, smiles, and even the occasional high-five might make an appearance. You look at your husband over the top of you child’s head and give each other knowing smiles that say “we totally have this adulting thing down.” You are parenting at its most rewarding level, and you share in that glorious moment right along with your child….because you have earned it too.
Then there are days where you receive news that some things appear to be a struggle for your child….that other children don’t seem to be struggling with, and you find yourself unable to move for a moment. It’s almost never totally unexpected news. You’ve seen signs, and your mother’s intuition wondered…..but you hoped…..you hoped they would “catch up.” You invested in flash cards, learning tablets, and educational programs…..youre determined to hurdle this obstacle.
Friends would tell you, “they are young, everyone learns at their own speed.” But there’s a place inside of you that knows…..there’s a very real possibility it might always be hard, and as the weight of that reality hits you….you feel a single tear fall down your cheek. This is not the first time you have tasted this bitter pill.
When I was a child school was always very easy for me. Once when I didn’t feel I was being challenged enough I lied and told my teacher that my mom wanted me to be placed into a higher reading group. They let me take the assessment, which I passed, and up I went. However, learning was not always easy for the middle sister in my family.
She struggled with every aspect of the academic system along with a variety of social and life skill delays. Our mother always wisely told us that every one learned things in their own time, and that when she was ready….she would check the boxes in her own special way.
My sister was born to two first borns; classic highly organized and over-achieving people. I, as their oldest child, was always…..well I was basically like I am now…..a big presence, a loud laugh, a determined energy, a storyteller, and confident force of nature. Our youngest sister an extra curricular master to the highest level…..music, sports, volunteering, church, and more. She did everything well. In our family of five, the bar was very high, and not because our parents pushed us to strive for that level of performance….because it came easily and naturally to us.
I’m sure you wondering how this not-so-similar-sister of mine turned out, and how on earth she navigated this family she had been placed into. Today she is a happily married mother with two little girls. Those years of struggle, while hard, have not defined her or held her back from seeing dreams made into realities. She is content.
The strangest truth is that we all learned more from her than she might realize. She was stillness, she was patience, she was calming, she was introverted, she was loyal, she was kind, she had compassion, she had a larger capacity to love than I could ever hope to imagine. Newborns will go only to their mothers….and to my sister, as the fruits of the spirit flow from her very soul.
She exudes something rooted in the bones of the earth…..she is contentment and peace, wrapped in a marrow stronger than any stone, and clothed in sparkling human flesh. She was not like the rest of us…..she was almost otherworldly, and her presence in our lives was a gift I didn’t fully realize until I had my own children.
Yesterday as I held my phone to my ear, and heard the haunting words “I don’t know what advice to give you, but she may not be ready.” I felt the pang…..it was familiar, and surprising in the same moment. Perhaps I too had been blessed with an otherworldly child. I see her now, and how she feels more deeply, and loves more fully, than those her age.
My husband and I are forced to have a conversation where he lies and tells me “It will all be okay.” We don’t know that’s true…..but it’s only words right….and we let ourself accept them….because we must. What other choice do we have?? We have these kinds of conversations in our bedroom, with the door closed, because when we walk out into the hallway the words stop, and we are propelled down the stairs filled with action….and love. It’s what parents do.
All the feelings are real, but in that moment when you stand face to face with the child….the one who just might not be like others…..you take a deep breath and instead of asking “why me?” You say, “why not me!”
Motherhood lived in technicolor reminds me that each child is a gift your family never realized they needed, and they will teach you more than you ever thought possible…..hug them tighter friends…..because ready or not you are about to be stretched.
Summer Smith is a speaker, writer, and motherhood blogger. She and her family are currently navigating the suburbs of Northern Virginia. As the mother to four young children, Summer maintains her sanity thanks to her sense of humor, copious amounts of coffee, and Amazon Prime. Maya Angelou once said, when reflecting on her childhood, that her mother left an impression like technicolor stars in the midnight sky. Influenced by these words, Summer blogs at her website Motherhood in Technicolor, and can also be found on her Motherhood in Technicolor Facebook page.