Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moms in All Shapes, Faiths and Sizes

In the earliest part of May last year, I told bits and pieces of my motherhood journey at a retreat for moms of special needs children. The event, a ministry of Valley Church in West Des Moines, also included a facial, a foot exfoliation, a hand massage, a neck and upper back massage, a jewelry making session and a time to chat with one another over healthy snacks. Prayers were bookends for our extended morning, a time spent thinking about what it meant to be a mom alongside other moms who understood how complicated our individualized versions of this role had become.

While I wasn't chronologically the oldest mother there, I was the most senior member of our hodgepodge, not-so-secret-yet-oft-misunderstood organization. It is a club with unintentional membership and compulsory participation. After we are inducted by one of our children, our membership lasts a lifetime with daily rituals of our making. Once in a while, members gather in pairs for things like sharing coffee or a shopping trip. Sometimes, like the day of this Hand-in-Hand Mother's Retreat, we group to grapple with issues that are best understood by other moms like us. We don't have to use a lot of words to exchange information. Glances, smiles, and sighs often suffice. Tears tell more than stories, but we like to hear stories - even small pieces of what life as a "special" mom is like for someone just a bit like us. The stories validate what we hope is true: We are not alone.

Prior to this retreat, I learned that one of the moms who planned to attend had been a youth in the church where Mark and I served as youth ministers when Stross was born. Nearly two decades later, Heidi became the mother of a special needs child herself. Now as then, her beauty radiates from the inside out and back again. Her son, Sully, is growing up with a mom well-acquainted with unconditional love and dedicated to providing him the best life possible. But that's what moms do, isn't it? That's what makes every mom "special" and what leaves moms of special needs children wondering why many in the world-at-large believe this type of "specialness" lies outside the parameters of conventional exceptionalism.

I know I don't want think about what makes my life circumstances "special" at the end of any given day. I just want a restful night's sleep and a chance to dream of things I might have forgotten I ever wanted in the first place. I believe this is true for moms of all shapes, faiths and sizes. I believe this desire to freely dream is also true for women who never became moms and maybe never will.

Happy Mother's Day to all women everywhere. May we always feel special simply because we are, and may each one of us love the children who come into our lives in unexpected but potentially enriching ways.

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