When I was a young girl, one of my favorite places was the woods in my back yard. Although, the word “woods” might have been a bit of a stretch.
We lived in a small Cape Cod in Levittown, New York. The woods probably weren’t much more than four or five trees in a row behind the fence that backed Hempstead Turnpike. It wasn’t exactly Little House on the Prairie, but for a little girl of six or seven, it may as well have been.
In my woods, I was free to go off into the wonderful and exciting adventures I would imagine without anyone to interrupt or make fun of my daydreaming.
I could pretend to be married with my own family. And for the record, I was the kind of mom who let her child do whatever she wanted to do and did not make her share with her sisters or clean her room. I would let her have 1million Barbies, too. Maybe even a dream house.
Or I could be a famous singer living in Manhattan, wearing beautiful clothes just like Barbie did, going to exciting parties, and travelling to far-off exotic places.
Sometimes I would just talk to the trees and grass and flowers and wonder what it was like to grow in the ground or be a leaf on the tallest tree.
I lived in my head a lot. I would go off whenever I wanted to escape, whether or not I could physically leave.
I was the kind of child that preferred to be alone. I was happier in a world I could create and control.
As I got older and realized that being in my own world made me different and sometimes the target of ridicule, I realized I had to choose. I left the world of make-believe. My goal in life became to fit in and look “normal.”
It was not easy. I really liked my own world, but I knew I could not live in my head and fit in with the cool people, if I continued to live there. I made a conscious effort to stay in the here and now and live in the real world.
Blending into the crowd was my main objective. Creativity and individuality became something I actively shunned. I wanted to be like everyone else.
My “odd” mind that saw things differently and went in directions that others didn’t was a source of embarrassment and shame.
I desperately wanted to be like the girls who didn’t have dyslexia and could go to class without getting lost, or read without flipping letters and words. I wanted to comb my straight hair in the mirror and put on my lip gloss as I chatted easily about boys with my friends.
And, I succeeded. By the time I got to high school I reserved my creativity for acting class and even then was careful how much of that side of me I revealed.
I may not have been exactly the most popular girl, but I was happy to hang out with my choir friends and managed to look pretty much like any other girl in my high school.
As I got older and left acting for the joys of eating and paying my own bills, I started to blend in more and more with the other young women who lived in the City. I was content to sit in an audience and let others perform.
I was thinking of this the other day as I was walking out of a mall with my daughter. Lizzy was wearing her new flower-adorned fairy crown and flower headband. She held her Disney Princess flower wand and happily walked a few paces ahead of me, clearly in her own world.
She would have put on her new fairy wings and the three princess dresses she just bought, too, if I wasn’t such a mean mother and made her wait until we got home.
If Lizzy was just a small girl of five or six, this may just go unnoticed or looked upon as something cute. But Lizzy is days away from her 10th birthday and could easily pass for 13. She is tall and stunning and would draw looks just because of this, but her need to be anywhere but the real world paired with her developmental delays and speech difficulties draws people’s attention whenever we’re in public.
As I was walking out of the mall with my beautiful enigma and my own mother I couldn’t help but see the irony.
The girl who so desperately wanted to live in a world of her own but chose the real world because of her equally desperate need to fit in gave birth to a daughter who because of her yet-to-be diagnosed neurological disorder was so clearly entrenched in her own space and didn’t care who knew it.
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
At that moment I imagined Lizzy as a yet-to-be born angel looking over the world with God to pick her mother.
There are millions of women who are comfortable nonconformists and embrace their originality. Instead she chose me–a woman who for years tried and succeeded to hide her creative soul.
I always thought God had a sense of humor. I know Lizzy does.
Lizzy’s challenges are many and any parent would feel overwhelmed at times and wonder why their child had to endure all that my daughter does.
I hate to admit it, but for the past few weeks as she has gone through an exceptionally manic period, I have felt sorry for myself. Why me? Why her?
It is not uncommon for people to tell a parent of a special needs child that God picks special people for special children. I have even gotten the “You must be a saint” comment more than once.
Somehow when we look at children with special needs, we cast the parent as a hero or someone who is saving their poor disabled child. In reality, Lizzy is saving me.
Lizzy shows me everyday that it’s OK to be who you are. If you want to wear three crowns and six dresses, so be it. I talk in funny voices and use the creativity I was born with in order to communicate with her. I laugh a lot.
I sing her songs and she begs for more. I drape a piece of fabric on her head and declare her a bride, and she runs to the mirror to admire herself. I play with dolls or listen to her play with spoons or pencils and see myself as I once did.
I’m beginning to see the wisdom of why I was chosen to guide Lizzy in this lifetime. Who better to help and understand a child who’s mind can’t help but live elsewhere than a person who has intimate knowledge of that world?
And who better to help a mother who was never comfortable with her own creativity find it again than a little girl who can’t help but live in a fantasy world?
When I was a young girl, one of my favorite places was the woods in my back yard. Although, the word “woods” might have been a bit of a stretch.
It’s sad how we give up so much to fit in and be the same. and how wonderful that you have a daughter who has allowed your creative self to come out.
And you are wonderfully creative. Whenever I read your work, I tear up – going back to a place in time, or distant conversation and I thank God that you share with us. I’d play with you on the swingset of my childhood anytime.
Happy New Year, sweet cyber friend 🙂
Kathy, this is lovely. I so agree that we learn so much from our children…they are really the angels guiding us, aren’t they?
What a wonderful, touching post to welcome the new year, kathy!
I’ve always enjoyed your writing and creative thinking. You have such gratitude for all that has been placed in your life. A true blessing. I love all you see through your daughter’s eyes…all she continues to teach you. I agree – God sure does have a sense of humor sometimes. We all need to right 🙂
Happy Happy New Year!! You’re amazing.
Lots of love xoxoxo
Thank you all for your beautiful and supportive comments! This essay was a little harder for me to write and it feels so great to know that you embraced it. The support I have found here is giving me the courage to go further in my writing and I can’t thank you all enough for that gift!! Happy New Year!! Much love to you all!
Spilled Milkshake says
This is beautiful (and has made me cry – a lot). You are such a wonderful person. It really is God’s work to have placed the perfect child with the perfect mother. I know neither of you are “perfect”, but you are perfect for each other.
I love you and I am so thankful to have met you in 2011. Here’s to continuing our friendship in 2012. Happy New Year!
Kim @ Stuff could... says
I had those fantasies in the woods of my childhood home also. Pretend family etc…Lizzy sounds beautiful
sandbox gems says
This was a beautiful reflection of what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, and the perspective you’ve gained, Kathy! Here’s to walking to your own beat and finding out your purpose. Very encouraging and touching.
I love your dishwasher, it’s hilarious!
Having Lizzy is a wonderful lesson for you and her creativity is something to relish on. She looks like she is happy in her world!
Ii is always a highlight of my day when I come here and read the great comments. Thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement. Lizzy is happy most of the time and for that I’m grateful. Thanks again!! Much love to you all!
An Irish Italian Blessing says
You are just amazing, you know that?! I think the way you view Lizzy and her choices is just beautiful, I wish we all were a little more comfortable with being different but we’re so concerned with what others think of us, we act in a way that’s accepted by others instead. It’s sad but I’m so glad Lizzy is showing you no matter what you wear or how you act, individuality is what sets us apart from the others and what makes us the incredible people we turn out to be. You are beautiful! An amazing mother and I love you!
Kathy this is such a beautifully written post and I love that you and Lizzy are perfect for each other. I love that you see that and appreciate it. Our children do teach us so much about life, don’t they? How is that? Maybe as adults we just over think everything.
Hope your New Year was a blessed one!
TyKes Mom says
You need to write a book! This is so beautiful. I was always the child that stayed inside my own head and lived in a mental world I could control. I try every day to continue to be “normal” and fit in with the crowd. My son, only three years old, is an extreme extrovert who is always himself. He constantly draws me back into the real world as he interacts with every person he encounters. I have recently realized that God picked me to be his mother, not because of what I can offer him, but because of how much he is all ready offering me.
Children truly due teach parents. They help us grow further as individuals than we ever could have done on our own. What a gift they are! What a gift your daughter is!
Army of Moms says
I love your writing so much. Kathy I have always tried to encourage my boys to be as different as possible. I still wear funny hats and make believe and at 9 and 12 they do too.
I am in love with Lizzy. I fell in love with that perfect soul when you wrote about her going up tho the girl in the wheel chair and asking her if she was a princess.
Thanks for sharing your Lizzy with us.
Grumpy Grateful Mom says
This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Your young self reminds me of Anne of Green Gables. I think you are such a perfect mother for your sweet daughter and your boys. And I have to believe that God has a sense of humor too. Sending continued prayers for your family. So blessed to know you! 🙂
How lucky you both are 🙂
Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post with us.
Kathy, what a lovely story. Thank you for reminding me that yes, we do learn from our children too! So we should slow down and watch what they do and try to learn from them. Beautiful!
Happy New Year to you and your family.
What a great post this is Kathy. And I’m glad you understand why God has given you what He has. 🙂
You have a beautiful message here. I too was once in my own little world when I was younger. But life got in the way so now I’m trying to find that piece of myself again. Thanks for sharing this.
This is really good Kathy. For some reason, it took me back to my childhood when as an adopted child, people would naively say, “wow, your parents must be really special to have done that.” As if to say–you’re a loser and nobody would want you. I would boldy reply, “no—they wanted ME.” Such a silly thing. Thanks for sharing and congrats on being featured!
I loved this post Kathy – I someitmes have to remind myself to let my boys be boys as they are at such a young impressionable age. Their creativity is what impresses me the most and after reading this, I felt the little girl in me kind of tug at my heart! I used to live in my head a lot as a little girl. It’s beautiful that your daughter brings out this wonderful side of you that has been pushed aside! Happy New Year Kathy – we have 364 days to try and get our acts together and meet this year!!!!
Oh such a great post!
I to was unique. I used to spend hours going through magazines. I’d cut out my kids, their rooms, their pets and their wardrobe. In the end I had 3 kids of my own, 9 adopted kids and pets that I’d never be able to have because of my allergies. I met a friend that was like me. I went over to her house and she had colored paper punches all over her floor. I asked what they were and she said, “That is Barbie’s food.” She had a pop bottle filled with liquid that had objects in it. She was experimenting how long it would take for that stuff to break down. She wore towels for long hair that her mom wouldn’t let her have. She picked to be a little more normal. I went to art school and am some ways still off, but slightly normal.
Kids teach you great things. Especially ones that struggle.
My little nephew that has Trisomy 18 is now 6 months old. Even with all his problems (which he has a lot) he still manages to smile. That is amazing.
Thanks a lot for making me cry, ya nerd! LOL…you are gifted my friend, and a gift to others. I’m proud of you and congrats on your wikimommy.com award. you deserve it baby!
Big lickery kisses!!!!
I just adore you!! Plain and simple…adore you! You are so gifted and talented, you are caring and compassionate and FUNNY! God picked Lizzie for you and you for Lizzie, because it’s perfect…it works. It’s ok to get frustrated and weary. You are doing a great job and I’m honored to call you friend!
This has to be one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read. I wanted to say beautifullest but I don’t think that’s a real word. 🙂 God knew exactly what He was doing. You two were put together to bless each other.
Shannon Milholland says
Kathy, what a truly beautiful post. I teared up as I read it – love the heart so filled with creativity and love that loves your daughter as God created her. Much love to you today, sweet friend! XOXO
Oh you have brought me to tears again. But in a good way! I see why you were listed as the most heart felt blog on wikki mommy. This is a beautiful post. Kids sure do have special way of teaches us.
I think your last sentences sums it all up quite nicely! You are an amazing woman and have been blessed with an amazing child. Children with disabilities tend to draw us in like moths to a flame because they truly live. They don’t walk around in fear of what others may say or think…and that truly makes them “special”. If more of us could embrace that simple concept I believe more of us would be happier and walking around with Fairy Wings and crowns and just smile.
Duh! Of course the two of you were brought together for just those reasons that you wrote about. I love the movie, BIG DADDY, because Adam Sandler lets that little boy wear whatever he wants to and allows him to express himself. Not exactly related, but sort of. It’s the greatest joys in life to express our creativity and be our authentic selves, no matter how many dresses we wear. I am so thrilled that you have this opportunity to express yourself and make nicey nice (again) with your younger self. Brava! xoxo
Lisa Weidknecht says
Congrats on vB featured member status! Love your writing style!
Mommy LaDy Club says
Wow Kathy! This is so insightful. Many of us have no idea what you’re going through as a parent of a special needs child, and I think you just explained it the best I’ve ever heard and read. Amazing writing!
This post brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful and touching tribute to your daughter. Love that she has taught you so many life lessons. Glad that you have each other!
Nate ShenkitUp! says
What an awesome story! I built so many forts in the “woods” behind our house..I miss being a kid and escaping to my own little world :D.
How awesome it is that Lizzie should have such a loving, understanding and caring mommy! Terrific story .
Diane - It's All Good Until You Burn Dinner says
Oh my gosh! What a beautiful post! I have often wondered where the spirit of our childhood goes when we feel like we “have” to grow up. That is one quality I found so incredibly endearing about my dad… as he aged, he still chose to act like a kid: silly, funny, and would try ANYthing. Even those things designated for very little boys or teenagers.
You definately have a gift. The gift of s childlike heart. And you are a gift — to your daughter. And how wonderful that she is able to bring out the “best of the best” from you? God knew what he was doing! 🙂
I too have added you “all over the place.” Thank you so much for the many follows!
Courtney Baxtron says
This really moved me. To tears even. Kathy this is such a fantastic post and revelation.
Beautiful post! I had imaginary friends until I was 12. I gave them up because I figured I had to at least try to be normal. I gave up being normal at 13, so it lasted a year. I think I’m generally one of the comfortable noncomformists that you mentioned. But sometimes, just for a moment, I do wish I was a “normal” girl.
Dear Kathy, God has plans for everyone in this World, no matter how big or small that plan may be. We’re all on His schedule and yes, He puts events and people in our lives to get closer to Him, whether it’s a small gesture or word or anything. Because in the end, He’s there for you and everyone that wants to reach for Him. And, yes, Lizzy can do everything and anything 🙂
Blessings friend <3
Becky Jane says
I loved to climb the old maple tree in our yard and pretend I was a bird. I could fly anywhere I wanted and view all the beauty around me!
Thanks for sparking such a fond memory!
Thank you so much for all of your great comments!!! I wish I could properly express how wonderful you all make me feel! It’s also great to know I was not the only one who loved to live in my head. Thank you so much for your on going support!! Much love to all!!
Great website! I added you to my blogroll. I love the colors! I too have a special needs child, but his is more behavioral than anything else. That and his lovely mood swings. They thought for awhile he had Asperger’s, but they love to try to label him with everything, including an “unknown mood disorder”…if it’s unknown, how can you label him with it? I live in a land of IEP’s and 504 plans. It’s great to meet someone with the same age ranges as me!
Michelle @Special Mom Space says
I’m so glad we connected. Thanks for following Special Mom Space. I’m following too. Oh and by the way I’m in NY also! No woods behind my building though LOL
Anne U says
I felt the same way when I was young, lots of daydreaming, I still do it some. I like controlling things in my world. But God’s plan for us can be better than anything we imagine.
Dree Getz says
This was just beautiful. You are lucky to have such a wonderful daughter.
Kathy, what a beautiful post. There is magic in all of that creativity, and somewhere along the way, it’s squashed in almost all of us. Thankfully it still lives on in those who aren’t afraid to let it shine. Your daughter seems to challenge and enliven that part of you, and what a blessing!
Congrats on being a vB Featured Member! As always, it’s well deserved.
Elisabeth Hirsch says
The irony here is so beautiful! This whole post was magical, from the woods to your reflections with your own daughter. What a touching post! :0)
Joy Page Manuel says
For whatever reason, I still do believe that parents are given children who ‘match’ them and your story clearly and beautifully illustrates this. This is so heartwarming, Kathy, and there is so much wisdom to be gained from this. Thank you for sharing this magical piece of your life with the rest of us! 🙂
This is such a beautiful story. As I read your words about being an imaginative child, I thought of my older son. He is too smart for his age, a wise soul, and I don’t say that because he’s my son. People are frequently floored when they ask me if he’s four or five and I respond that he’s only three. I worry a lot about him, because like you, he lives in his head. He’s not interested in the things other little boys his age are interested in. He’s creating elaborate stories at home while other little boys are smashing cars together. I want him to be true to himself, and I don’t care if he doesn’t fit in as long as he’s okay with it. I don’t want his differences to pain him during those difficult years. This is truly a beautiful story, and I also believe God has a sense of humor. I admire you for learning from your daughter and understanding her situation having been there in some manner before. Keep up the beautiful stories, Kathy. They are heartfelt and filled with life lessons!
Lizzy will continue to teach us all! It is funny that in the most mundane places or experiences we transport ourselves back to our past and realize that we have come so far and learned so much and those things that seemed like a struggle yesterday are a blessing today. I have bad days and why me days when Braeden breaks the computer and the lamp and bites the crap out of me but I know that in the moments he gives me the strength to go to the store unshowered and dirty he is my greatest teacher and mentor. We were chosen for our children by them and God and I know we will both continue to piece together why.