I am a true mastermind at hiding my emotions. I can be feeling lower than low, and almost no one would know. No matter how many times I hear things like, "these boys are lucky to have you", or " you do so much for your boys", the comments that reverberate in my head are things I have heard like "you shouldn't have adopted so many kids if you couldn't take care of them", or " all they need is more structure and discipline".
Recently, I have been feeling very much alone. One of the things that struck me the other night after a rough bedtime, is that I have no one to "tag out" to. There is no one here who I can really lean on and say, "they are yours, I am going to the grocery store", or "they are yours, I am going for a walk". Sure, we have friends and we have grandparents, but no matter how amazing these people are, the buck stops with me. They are mine. I think for me that is the hardest thing. The discipline is mine. The good is mine. The hard is mine. The bills are mine. It is all mine.
That is truly exhausting.
I have a bill I am working on paying, and the organization that I owe suggested that I call someone for help. While I am sure that I could make this phone call, that is simply not how I function. I am a strong, independent person who believes that it is up to me to fulfill all of my personal responsibilities. And the blessing is, that this is a bill I can pay and a bill I will pay. The weakness is that this is a bill that I could pay with a few months of lead time. It is not a bill I can pay right this moment. For all people, or at least for most people I know, there are bills that are paid immediately- mortgage, credit cards, car payments, insurance, child care. There are bills that are paid quickly- cable, electric, medical bills. And there are bills that are paid as quickly as possible- memberships,dues and the other extras in life.
As a single mom, I am very fiscally responsible. I have to be. There is no one else who is going to take care of my bills. There is no fairy who is paying for us to live. I take great pride in this. I take great pride in being the person who can take my kids out for a treat, and I take great pride in teaching my children, that every dollar has a value and if we spend a dollar in one place, we will not have it to spend somewhere else. At times, this has led to some humorous interactions. I was trying to teach Matthew the value of money and I explained it to him by telling him that my credit card allowed me to spend $100 every week, and that I could only spend the $100 once. Unfortunately, he was listening and realized at the grocery store that I was trying to spend $110 on groceries and he panicked and screamed at me that I couldn't use my credit card....as my face turned red, I explained to the cashier that of course I could use the credit card, and I begged Matthew to please be quiet and told him I would explain more in the car.
The hardest thing for me is to ask for help or to admit that I am struggling. As a teenager I struggled a lot with depression. It was very hard to be a teenager who loved working with children and to have my ovaries removed and along with them my possibility for having my own children. I thought that was the worst thing I would cope with.
Right now however, I am struggling with the fact that while I have children, I have children who are not allowing me the "typical" parenting experience. Even with Jacob, I have to constantly monitor his development. I made a choice to send Jacob to summer camp for the most of the summer rather than to send him to summer school. I felt like he needed time to just be a kid, and his summer school was only a short 3 hours, 3 days per week, and I really didn't have any great child care options for him. So I decided that this summer I would focus on him socially and choose camp over summer school.
Given this choice, he is receiving very minimal speech therapy. I am now listening to him regress and struggle with speech all while hearing his friends communicate clearly. He struggles with him/her, he struggles with before/after, and he struggles with other very basic concepts for an almost 2nd grader.When he is talking to me, I am struggling to understand him when I cannot see his mouth and get a sense of what he is trying to tell me. I am sure that a lot of this will be worked on again come September in speech, and I am equally sure that most people are not noticing these changes, however I am his mom, and to me these changes are very visible. Equally as visible to me are the missing play date opportunities, and the solo play Jacob participates in at camp. It is hard to be at camp and to see your child sitting alone, and playing mostly alone. I am sure that this is not how he is most of the time, but when I see it, it hits hard. I think Jacob is a child who enjoys a combination of solo play and peer interaction, but I am always concerned, because I am his mom, that he isn't keeping up or he isn't "fitting in".
Jacob is living a life unlike most of his peers. His life may be more "typical" if he was being raised in an inner city, but for a child living in a calm suburb, Jacob's life is unique, making Jacob unique. In many ways he is wise beyond his years, he has an understanding and a compassion for others that most 7 year olds do not. He is compassionate towards David in ways that I am continually surprised by and proud of. He welcomes Matthew back, even after Matthew has had a fit, in ways that sometimes I am not able to. But, if Jacob was my only child with a disability, I could focus more on his needs, and we would be practicing speech and articulation, and maybe his delays would not be as obvious to me this summer.
I guess what I am trying to express in this post is the thoughts that are going on inside me all of the time. This has been a rough summer for me, and yet if you saw me I would tell you "things are fine". Because, in reality, there are so many people who are dealing with so much worse. I am so lucky to have my 3 boys, and I know that. However, that does not make it easy to raise these 3 boys. Raising them is exhausting. It is "on" all of the time. Our respite has been ridiculously inconsistent, and even when I have respite, I still have 2 children who need me, so it isn't really "respite" for me.
A friend saw me the other day, and I was opening up to her, because she "gets" it as another single mom, and as I was talking Jacob was whining, and she reminded me that my easy child, Jacob, would be someone else's challenge......that statement really put things in perspective. My "easy" child is in a co-taught classroom, receiving speech, OT, and special education services daily. My "easy" child has some significant needs, and yet he almost doesn't register to me as a child with special needs given my other 2 children.
I know that I cannot expect people to recognize my struggles if I don't verbalize them, and I am horrible at verbalizing them, and please know this blog post is not a "cry for help" or anything like that. This blog post is more a "real glimpse into our world, into our every day." It is my way of saying that everyday as a single parent, even with typical kids, would be really hard. When you tag out and say to your partner, "you put the kids to bed, I'm going to the grocery store", remember how easy it is to grocery shop without kids in tow. When you go out for a mom's night, remember how great it is to go out and not come home and pay the sitter. This post is more about reminding people how hard it is to be a parent, any parent, and then an inside glimpse into my life as a single mom raising 3 children with special needs.
- I am a single mom of three amazing boys! All three of my sons entered my family through adoption. All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!