Ok, before you get into an uproar, hear me out.
My special girl McLaine is 6 1/2. Sometimes I think back to who I was before she came into my life and I realize I’ve really let myself go since then. In fact, compared to who I was at that time, I don’t even recognize myself now! Having a special needs child is totally life-changing and, well, some things just have to fall by the wayside.
Following is a “top five” list of what I’ve let go:
Before I had my daughter it was all about me. Deep down I’ve always had a caring heart, but I mostly lived a life of putting myself first. My initial thought was nearly always “How will this affect me?” Now, I would do absolutely anything at just about any personal cost if it would benefit my girl. A mother’s love knows no bounds and when you have a child who needs lots of extra care, there’s just no room for selfishness.
I am a competitive person by nature, and being the best used to be inordinately important to me. Not only did I have this expectation for myself, but it also carried over into how I viewed other people. A perfect example of this is the value I formerly placed on intellect. If someone couldn’t keep up with me intellectually, I was likely to become frustrated with them. To me, being “smart” was a measurement of how “worth my time” someone was. Now, I know the real measure of a person is in the kindness and love they show to others.
The old me REALLY loved for people to think she had it all together. Admittedly, this is something I still struggle with some. I suppose once a perfectionist, always a perfectionist, but I truly have begun letting go of perfection in many ways. My sweet girl’s school pictures came back recently and I couldn’t help but notice that she chewed her hair right beforehand and it was all wet on the bottom. She also refuses to smile for pictures. The old me would have never bought this picture because it isn’t “perfect,” but the new me has purchased several prints and can’t wait to show it to everyone who will look. Now, I find beauty in the imperfect.
Admittedly, I am a “right now” kind of person. In the past, being made to wait for someone I felt was being slow released a sort of rage in me. Waiting is tough for me still, but not nearly as excruciating as it once was. I waited until 18 months to see my daughter sit up on her own, 2 years old to see her crawl, and six years old to see her take her first steps. Can I tell you how worth the wait it was? Through that process I learned that something long-anticipated can bring multiplied joy.
5) A Narrow World/Societal View
I grew up in a pretty homogeneous area and in an era before inclusion was a thing. Diversity, to me, just meant people with different skin colors. My take on the world came from an incredibly minuscule vantage point. Being mom to McLaine has opened my eyes to the world of disability. I’ve met tons of people with whom I’d otherwise have nothing in common if our children didn’t have special needs. This caused me to become more interested in understanding people from different backgrounds than my own. My eyes are now opened to take in far more of the world than I even knew existed before.
So, you see, over the past few years I’ve definitely let myself go, but I can tell you one thing for sure-
I’m glad I let go of the old me and I don’t miss her one bit.