Monday, October 6, 2008
I'm Not Special - I'm Ashley's Mother
So many times people have said to me what a wonderful person I must be to want a child like Ashley – so patient, so committed, so…special. Hearing those words always irks me. I don’t feel all those things – I don’t feel like I deserve any special recognition for the life I have chosen.
Before Ashley came into my life, my parenting was a pretty easy job. I had my birth son, Chip, and he has always been a great kid. Even now that he is 18 years old, I’ve never had to deal with issues much more complicated than the occasional smart mouth. With Chip, I’ve had it pretty easy as a parent.
But, I think God knew I was capable of handling more. Maybe He even felt like I was getting lazy and not realizing my potential to do something positive in this world of His. That’s why I believe He chose me to parent Ashley.
Having Ashley as a daughter has made me a better person – one who has cast aside the ennui, and resolved to make a difference in the world. I have learned to stand up for myself and for others. I have learned that people, sometimes even one person, can make a huge difference. I have learned that if injustice is allowed to continue, it only festers and grows more widespread. I have learned compassion, and I have learned how to tell that from pity. I have learned to love with a depth I never knew possible, And, I have learned how to support another human being without compromising their personal independence.
I am not special, but I am Ashley’s mother, and she makes me feel special each and every day.
While the following piece from Erma Bombeck contains some phrases that today are considered less than politically correct, it is still a very powerful statement. If I could change anything about it, it would be the title.
The Special Mother
by Erma Bombeck
Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit.
This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?
Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
"Armstrong, Beth; son. Patron saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity."
"Forrest, Marjorie; daughter. Patron saint, Cecelia."
"Rutledge, Carrie; twins. Patron saint, Matthew."
Finally He passes a name to an angel and smiles, "Give her a handicapped child."
The angel is curious. "Why this one God? She's so happy."
"Exactly," smiles God, "Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel."
"But has she patience?" asks the angel.
"I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it."
"I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has her own world. She has to make her live in her world and that's not going to be easy."
"But, Lord, I don't think she even believes in you." God smiles, "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect - she has just enough selfishness." The angel gasps - "selfishness? is that a virtue?"
God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied.
She will never take for granted a 'spoken word'". She will never consider a "step" ordinary. When her child says 'Momma' for the first time, she will be present at a miracle, and will know it!"
"I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty, prejudice....and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she is here by My side".
"And what about her Patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air.
God smiles, "A mirror will suffice."