When my daughter, my first child, was born, I eased gracefully into motherhood. I overcame just enough struggle with breastfeeding to feel like a champion, got her sleeping 8 hours a night before she was a month old, and worked through some wicked colic. She talked at 7 months, walked at a year, and I could guarantee that I could navigate a reasonable solution to every challenge that emerged just by tapping into my well-honed maternal instincts. 

I obviously had parenting nailed.

I had a knack for solving everyone else’s problems too. The kid throwing a fit at the store? The one who didn’t sleep through the night for a year? Yeah, just hand him to me, I’m Mary friggin’ Poppins over here. The problem is quite apparently parental failure, as I, the queen of all know-it-all moms, had a solution for every parenting problem I encountered; thus, my maternal toolbox was obviously bigger, better, and stocked to the brim with premium quality tools.

My second child was born with Down syndrome. This learning curve was steeper, but my toolbox sufficed again. I had to dig deeper, and work harder, but yet, I managed to solve even some of the trickier special needs challenges. 

When my son got a bit older, the wheels fell off for a bit, and I suddenly found myself in uncharted territory. The answers not only stopped coming naturally, they dried up completely. His behavior was impulsive, impossible to manage, and sometimes dangerous, and I was at a loss. After seeking help from doctors and his Occupational Therapist, he was diagnosed with ADD and Sensory Processing Disorder. After a few years of diligent seeking, and several hearty servings of crow, we succeeded in getting most of our son’s behaviors managed, along with a much more humble perspective on parenting.

Then along came number 3. Our youngest is 10, and still defies any parenting solutions. His health, both mental and physical, has been overwhelming to manage, and he has chagrined us at every turn, outsmarting every possible parenting tip, trick or solution. 

I am now on the receiving end of those looks when we are in public. The one whose child has gone full noodle on the floor at the doctor’s office. The one who buys a stupid toy every time we stop at the pharmacy in order to escape relatively unscathed. I’m the mom whose nearly 11-year-old still doesn’t sleep through the night. 

Yeah, I take a dollop of humility in my coffee every morning, and usually another heaping dose by noon. My Mary Poppins days are long gone. I take those looks with a grain of salt. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I wish I was still in a position of feeling superior to moms like me. I loved being able to solve my kids problems and work through whatever challenge they handed me. 

But now, instead of thinking I have it all dialed in, I’m the one who knows to lend a hand to the weary mom in the checkout lane who’s buying that stupid candy in hopes that it will buy her the 10 minutes she needs to get to the car without a meltdown. I get it, and I never want to un-get it. 

Alethea Mshar

Alethea Mshar is a mother of four children; an adult child who passed away of a drug overdose, one typical daughter and two sons who have Down syndrome, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder and complex medical needs. She has written "What Can I Do To Help", a guide to stepping into the gap when someone you know has a child diagnosed with cancer, which is available on Amazon, and is publishing a memoir titled, "Hope Deferred". She can be found on Twitter as leemshar, and blogs for The Mighty HuffPost as Alethea Mshar, as well as her own blog, Ben's Writing Running Mom on https://benswritingrunningmom.wordpress.com/. She is also on Facebook as Alethea Mshar, The Writing, Running Mom.