I’m the mother of three amazing children. I married my best friend, and we live in the suburban neighborhood I grew up in. I even drive a minivan.
On paper, we sound like a very ordinary family. Even if you set the paper aside, I still think we’re pretty average.
But every now and then I get smacked in the face with the reality that we’re a little different.
My oldest son Tom and I were sitting on my bed, chatting and spending some time together. The TV was playing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a movie I remember seeing with my mom and sisters when I was a girl.
Our youngest son, Peter, was happily watching the movie when he started to laugh over the fact that Charlie in the movie has a Grandpa Joe just like my kids.
I was staring at Tom marveling at how fast he is growing up and enjoying the close feeling I had with my boys when Tom started to talk about what he might name his own children one day.
“I think I might name a boy Joe after Daddy and Grandpa.”
That would be nice, was my happy reply.
“Hey, your kids will have a Grandpa Joe just like you do,” I said, smiling with the thought.
Peter and Tom started to laugh.
“Mom, you’ll be Grandma Kathy.”
Yeah, I guess I would be, I replied.
This was said with the joy that one day I would have grandchildren, the amazement that I was in fact old enough to technically be a grandmother now, and the hope and prayer that my son would not become a parent until he was truly ready.
I was enjoying this sweet time with my boys when Tom said something that took my breath away.
“I guess I would leave my children to Peter if something happened to me. Or, my wife’s brothers or sister.”
Tom said this matter of factly, as if he was thinking out loud.
He looked over at his beautiful sister who was smiling and playing.
“Lizzy will get to see my kids all the time, won’t she mom?”
I could see he was upset at all his mind was playing through.
“It’s hard to think about the fact that Lizzy wouldn’t be able to care for your own children, isn’t it Tom?”
He looked at me with tears in his eyes and my heart went out to him.
I said these words calmly and naturally as Tom’s mother. I was careful to respect his emotions and fears as the devoted and loving brother of his sister, a child with significant special needs.
But then something happened.
The tears just started to fall.
Tears that don’t come naturally or easy for me.
Tears that reminded me that not only am I the caring, concerned mother of a child who is worried about his sister and what that means for his own life.
I am the mother of Lizzy, a child whose special needs are so profound that these questions are a normal part of our life, even if we don’t always give them sound.
All of sudden my family didn’t feel so average.
Tom looked at me, and I could tell that he felt badly that he gave voice to these fears.
He started to have tears in his eyes too.
I wanted to be there for him, to comfort him and allow him to have his feelings.
But, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
I love my daughter. She is beautiful inside and out. Her humor and love of life are infectious. She makes our life as amazing and complete as her two brothers.
Yet, she is different.
Different from what I expected.
But then I remind myself that she was always going to be different than I expected. She is a person in her own right. She walks her own path, to her own music, just as she always would have regardless of her needs.
Oddly through my tears, and even my anger, I realize that I’m very blessed.
And, that I do have a pretty average, typical family after all.