It’s one of the most maligned, undervalued, and belittled professions in existence. Even by members of the same gender. Sometimes, especially by the same gender. Yet, everyone had or has a mother, or was at least conceived by one. I’ve always maintained that motherhood is a profession and an important one. Except in mostly rare cases, there are no accompanying esteemed greenbacks garnering this role in our capitalist culture. Yet, I’ve always also said, it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had.
Thursday was Grace’s first day out of school forever. She chose to sleep in. After catching a 6:30 school bus for the last seven years, I think she deserved it. She helped take out the trash, sort laundry, make blueberry buckwheat waffles, and clean up afterwards. She played on her iPad some while I juggled emails. And then we forayed into the park. A place she’s been visiting alongside of me since she was two. For two decades, plus-two, as of June 13, park employees have watched my gal grow up.
As we arrived, we saw a mom hauling a picnic basket. Then, along our walk, another was supervising two mud-caked youths dipping nets full of stringy, dripping algae from a pond. Leaving the park restroom, we passed a mom with three children, one of them obviously with special needs. Grace and I sat on the porch rockers for a while and saw the mom corral her brood into the wooded trail. Soon thereafter we heard one of those children pitching a high-holy tantrum. We’d planned to take the long circuitous route through the woods back to our car, but I also chose that path, in part, to stroke the arm of this stranger-mom as I passed her by and to tell her I understood. That I was a special needs mother, too.
Later, we met up again. Her two typically developing offspring had run on to their family car, but the mom was still firmly coaxing the special needs child to walk on her own even though she didn’t like the fact that she’d fallen down and gotten wet in the creek and was still intermittently yelping a loud raspy cry of angry defiance and protest. This time, as we passed, I encouraged the Mom for sticking to it and holding out amid the tantrum because, as Michael Remus, national inclusion specialist, says: when our sons and daughters with disAbilities grow up, there’s not going to be a special ed Wal-Mart. (I left out the part about Michael and Mal-Wart and also the following. Our special needs children have to learn to grow up and merge into the world like everyone else to as much extent as they are able. Life is hard.)
At some point later in our park adventure, Grace once again purposely popped out the lens of her purple sunglasses. She asked me repeatedly to fix it. No such luck. I told her she had to wear them the rest of the hike, the car ride home, and then into the house. (It was not an especially bright day and our trail was shaded.) When we got home, I told her, then she could take them off.
I told her she had to live with the results of destroying her favorite shades. You see, I’m upping the ante nowadays, and the new curriculum is the advanced version of Skills for Life. There are consequences for our actions and we must learn from them and also learn not to repeat them. Even when we enter this world with an extra set of needs.
She came home and began quietly creating some art. And her glasses? It took some finagling, like it usually does, but that errant peeper is popped back into place now. A pair made whole again for viewing the sunny side.