Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear Mom in the Waiting Room

Dear mom in the waiting room,

I see you. Your 5 year-old is sitting quietly beside you, looking calmly through a book that you packed specifically so she wouldn't have to play with the germy ones in this office. I overhear her ask politely for a tissue, so of course you pull a little pocket pack out of your perfectly organized diaper bag. She doesn't need reminded to go throw it in the trash. Sits down only to jump up because she remembers to wash her hands. I wonder why you don't follow her into the bathroom to make sure she doesn't destroy anything. Then it hits me - of course. You don't need to.

Your makeup is flawless. I can't find the lid to what is remaining of mine since the 2 year old decided it would make a good facepainting kit. So now it resembles some sort of dried-out dust collector. I haven't replaced it, because the thought of taking all four kids and all the baby's gear to the drugstore for one superficial thing seems to require more effort than I have left to give.

Oh, what's that you are reading? A book. 3 years ago, I would have made small talk with you about the fantastic storyline while my child sat calmly beside me in perfect behavior. We would have joked about how hard it is to potty-train and what a nightmare those teething days are. In my old life, we would have been friends.

But now, the grand canyon of parenting lies betwen us. Now, I feel your sideways glances. The scene on my side of the room is much different from yours. A little blonde toddler screams and kicks my shins because I wouldn't let her eat the gum she found under the table I'm sitting near. The two older kids are is crying, because her socks are itchy. For the fourth time since we left the house. The other just grabbed a whole stack of pamphlets for hearing aids and began passing them out to all the families waiting. The older of the two yells at her to put them down and she too, bursts into tears. I stand quickly to intervene, only to trip over my infant daughter's oxygen tank and send it crashing to the ground. The sound startles her and she begins to cry loudly. I soothe her while wrangling the still-angry toddler into my arms because they are asking me to bring my insurance cards up to the desk. She screams at me and smacks me in the head repeatedly as I dig in my wallet to find the cards they need. Meanwhile, the big girls decided to pretend the floor is lava and are LEAPING across the remaining chairs in the waiting room. I give them a stare and quietly demand they sit down in their seats.

I sigh and try not to burst into tears. I know what you are thinking. Its written all over your face. An older woman in a corner chair shakes her head as Addison angrily throws her cup at the wall. You all assume I must just let them do whatever they want. You wonder why I don't discipline them. I know you tell yourself, "I would never let my child get away with that." Yeah, yeah. I used to think that too... I could get angry. I could yell, spank, and scream til I am blue in the face - but I wont, because the truth is, I know why they are acting that way.

What you don't see, is that my children are angry. They spent the morning at the overcrowded babysitter's house because I can't afford someone to come to our home and be with them. They are shuffled from caregiver to grandma and back again everytime we are in the hospital, which is alot. They are told all day long - "hold on, I have to get your sister's feeding tube ready" or "you'll have to wait, we are busy doing ____ for your sister."  Over a dozen times this year, I've missed birthdays, school parties, parades, and more. They forgive me but they don't forget. But oh, sometimes - a lot of times, they are the most kind and compassionate kids you will ever meet. Little Brooklyn sings lullabies to Audrina as she gets blood drawn. Lily is the champion at hand-holding when its needed. Sometimes Brooklyn wakes up to clean her room before I get up just 'because' she wants to help out. Lily hugs me and tells me I am the best mommy in the universe just when I need to hear it most.

 They do inappropriate things because it guarantees I will look. They have to, to get a share of my attention in this situation. So while you were judging me, I was silently forgiving them and asking God to help them understand. And to help me have more patience.

What you don't see about my toddler, is that she has no control of her emotions.. She struggles to understand so many things that come easily to the rest of us. She lives in a world that has expectations and rules and her brain just hasn't begun to process those yet. She is beautiful and perfect on the outside, but she struggles every day on the inside. She's not just another bratty kid. She's MY bratty kid, full of fight because she's been battling to stay alive all her life. She is normal 2 year old stuff piled high on top of autism and neurological disorder and disease and tests and IVs. We are in a doctors office, which only adds to her tremendous anxiety.

Then there is the baby. I see you eyeing all her equipment, wondering whats 'wrong' with her. If you ask, I would tell you there's nothing WRONG with her. She's more right than any of us broken, healthy people. She suffers from a disease and the monitors are to make sure she doesn't die suddenly while I wait for this appointment and my kids terrorize the rest of the waiting room.

I never planned for this. It didn't come with a manual, though it would have been helpful because I spend so much of it floundering, hoping and praying I'm doing the right things. I don't ask for much, but please, stop looking at me like you feel sorry for me. When we leave here, we will head home to our messy house, and fall into a massive hug on the couch and all will be right with the world again. The girls will quietly say they are so sorry for acting that way. I will kiss a boo-boo, make a snack and put off the laundry for a few more hours to read a book to them or color a picture. Tomorrow we will repeat this same office scene in another office and another person will make me feel inadequate as a mother. But slowly, I am learning that I am the luckiest mom on the planet.... I realize that I too have 'perfect' kids....I've just come by a different definition of it. <3


  1. This breaks my heart and warms my heart all at the same time. Seriously....I would not have as much grace as you if it were me. Your girls are all sooo lucky to have you.

  2. You should have seen me today with my only child screaming and having a fit!

  3. I've been following your blog since the April 2012 Babycenter birth club. I've been reading, empathizing with what you're going through. Hang in there, mama. I can only understand a little bit of it, but my child is different too. There were days where I was angry, and envious. And there are days where I see a mom that you described and I *understand*. I may not get up and tell her that I *understand*, but I do. My child looks normal on the outside too.

  4. I can't imagine adding special needs to my 5 kids 7 and under. And yet that is what you manage daily. You are such a strong amazing woman! Please remember that every mother of 'larger' families struggles in some way with giving each child the necessary attention they crave! Even without adding the need for feeding tubes, oxygen, and extra appointments. The road that you walk, that God has allowed for you is blessing me and many others. I pray that tonight you find comfort in that!

  5. Have you thought about applying for headstart? It would provide you with a break and for at least one of your older children to attend free preschool. Just a thought, in our area they are excellent preschool programs, only about 3 hours long but great! Ther are also mothers day out groups, mops, etc. I only offer those out because i know that the one I am in supports all of the Moms frequently. If someone needs help, the 'Moms step in. You may be surprised too, some of those Moms may have children with special needs. I know that even though my group is small there are 2 in my group and although they do not always make it to the group, they are still supported.

  6. Amazing! I felt like you were describing my life with 3 "typical" kids and now a 2 year old on the spectrum...amazing what a difference having a special needs child can make to every aspect of your life. Your post made me want to reach through the screen and help you wrangle your kids in the waiting room....:)