I have a small struggle on Mother’s Day, and it’s for a silly reason.
A few years ago, my son developed a skill that my daughter has not, and this is what trips me up ever so briefly. When a holiday or my birthday comes around, my eight-year-old son thinks of me. He panics if my husband didn’t have time to take him shopping for a gift for me. He hunts around in his room to find special treasures of his to give to me to express his love. I’ve received a Santa hat, a teddy bear, and sea shells as gifts from such occasions. They are tucked away in my bedroom, and I think about him when I see these items.
I get other small but meaningful gifts too. There’s the cards with misspelled words that are just so adorable. He created these without me prompting him. Then he tells me, “Happy Mother’s Day,” while offering me a hug.
Then there’s my daughter with Down syndrome and minimal verbal skills. Though she is twelve years old, my daughter has never thought of giving me a gift on her own. She has never panicked that she has no gift to give me. She almost always needs prompts like, “It’s Mother’s Day. Tell mommy you love her.” She has never rushed to her room to create a picture for me for a special holiday. In fact, she has never, ever just sat down and colored any picture for me. While she colors, I will ask her if I can have the picture. Sometimes, she says yes and sometimes it’s a no. She has never thought of being thoughtful in this way. It’s a concept she hasn’t developed yet. She’s not rude; she just hasn’t developed that skill yet.
The differences in my children are highlighted on days like Mother’s Day. My son understands the importance of holidays and social connections held within them. My daughter does not. My son has the verbal skills to tell me how he feels about me. My daughter does not.
In the past, my daughter’s inability to think of me has been enough for me to spend at least a few minutes in self-pity on Mother’s Day. I have devoted my life to my kids like any other mother, but my daughter’s care is quite intense. I’m the one who cleans her medical equipment parts weekly. The medications are all refilled by me. I’m the one who drives hundreds of miles to make sure she sees the best specialists. Who wakes up early every school morning to get her 50 minutes of nebulizer and vest airway clearance completed? Me. I do and do for her, and I suppose I just want to feel appreciated by her on this special day. I guess that’s a natural feeling, but it’s one rooted in my selfishness.
Parenting is a selfless role. You deny yourself for the betterment and care of someone else. When you have a child with a disability, the selflessness that must occur is substantially greater. You do what you do because you must, but you also do it out of love.
Love is the driving force behind everything I do. I want my daughter to be healthy and live her best life. I don't mind doing her care even though she'll probably never be able to acknowledge all the ways I have helped her. I must remember that love gives without expecting something in return. Most of the time, this is how I operate. But Mother’s Day messes me up. Maybe it’s all those stories other mothers share about their children doting on them. Maybe it’s the commercials that suggest that I should be treated so special on this day. Whatever it is, I end up wishing my daughter could express some love towards me of her own accord.
This year, I won't allow the thought that I'm missing something bother me on Mother's Day. I am not missing out on anything. My kids both love me. My daughter gives me love and affection almost every day. I probably get more cuddles from her for no reason at all than any other parent. I'm lacking nothing. I won't allow the expectation of a certain day to tell me otherwise.
I'll continue to love and serve both of my children on Mother's Day just like normal. I'll have an expectation of giving and loving with nothing in return. Whether I receive a gift or not, I'll lack nothing. They are the gift after all!
Evana is a wife and mother of two children. Since becoming a parent, Evana has spent many hours driving to specialty appointments, praying beside a hospital bed, and learning about her children’s diagnoses. Evana is also a pediatric speech-language pathologist and serves children with autism, feeding disorders, and other developmental delays. You can connect with Evana on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, A Special Purposed Life.