By Jen Franklin Kearns
Parenting is a tough gig.
It is a constant dance between, “I think I’ve got this” and “Wow, I really screwed that up.” I tend to find myself hanging out near the latter, thinking that I could have done anything and everything better than I actually did it.
My oldest son, Alex, likes to remind me that I’m wrong on those counts. He is 14 and happens to have Down syndrome, which I only mention because from my observations, he is much more open with his loving gestures than other kids his age. I often wonder if his ability to express his feelings more than other teens lies somewhere on his extra 21st chromosome.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t exhibit the moods of a brooding teenager (I will be the first to tell you that individuals with Down syndrome are not always the sweet, inspirational angels that our society makes them out to be!), but I do at least hear some kind words from him every now and then.
Daily, he will hug me and say “You’re the best mom I’ve ever had!”
I used to giggle while returning his hug, because I’m the only mom he’s ever had so his compliment seemed silly. Lately, though, I’ve reconsidered his statement. I now realize that it’s true: I am a better mom than I was yesterday, and tomorrow I’ll be better than I was today. It’s okay to give myself that credit.
Am I perfect? Absolutely not.
But I keep trying, keep showing up to this life. Sometimes, I show up louder and more determined. Some days, I’m just better prepared. Other days, I might put my head down and choose not to be present in each and every demanding aspect of motherhood. And that’s okay. I can allow myself the luxury of occasionally checking out like that, because the next day, I will try again. It’s in that willingness to try that I become the “best mom” he’s ever had.
In parenting, and perhaps especially in disability parenting, it is really important to stop and give ourselves credit.
There is no guaranteed road map that will guide us along to the “right way” to parent. What seems to work one day can completely blow up in our faces the next. Just as our kids are learning to navigate their way into adulthood, we are continuing to find our way. Accepting that we will make mistakes and, more importantly, learning from those errors is key to successful parenting.
One of my goals for 2019 is to give myself more credit and cut myself some slack. I can’t do everything, and I definitely can’t do it all well. I am often so hard on myself, which unnecessarily adds to my daily load of stress. So, I plan to appreciate the victories (big and small) and reflect on what can be done better (with a heavy dose of grace).
In that mindset, I hope to persist in being the “best mom” he’s ever had, and I will continue with my regular response back to him: “And you’re the best Alex that I’ve ever had.”
Jen Franklin Kearns is a mother of three who enjoys writing and excels in sarcasm. When she isn’t busy driving her children to dance classes, soccer and basketball practices, or school events, she enjoys reading and perusing nonsense on social media. Jen is a tireless advocate for inclusion and equal rights for all, but her advocacy efforts focus primarily on issues which directly affect her son with Down syndrome. Jen writes at Tales from the Duck Pond and is anxiously awaiting the launch of her new site, Coffee and Inclusion.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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