I am not a selfless machine of giving. I never have been. I love my kids and would do anything for them, but not at disproportionate cost to myself. There is nothing martyrish about my approach to momming. But when we become parents of kids with differences, our definitions of sacrifice tends to shift a bit. The result for me is that there are a few phrases that just don’t apply anymore: free time for one and, I’m bored, are 2 such concepts that entirely disappeared for me when my second child came along.
Like the readers and writers here, I am steeped in strategies and goals for my child in special education, the legal parameters of an IEP, keeping up on medical standards (ie, worries) for my daughter’s diagnosis, paving the way for friendships for her, for real relationships outside the family, trying to stay one step ahead of her communication needs as a non-verbal child, researching and making decisions about assistive technology, ensuring my other daughter is happy, healthy and confident in her path as well, disability activism, community building, creating resources for local families impacted by disability, initiating and expanding inclusive options for our local kids, educating community members on seeing people with disabilities more clearly… It doesn’t leave much unstructured time when you combine it with the regular busy-ness of running a family. I don’t often stop and think about what developments and focus outside of parenting and disability that the lady in the mirror might like to see. I go with the flow and I love my “work.” Not having time to ponder about possible “add-ons” probably serves me well.
But then my 11 year old, Cate, registered for a 5K run this spring. She’d run it with my multiple marathon-finishing husband. I thought about what the accomplishment might feel like for my daughter and got very excited for her. I wanted it for her and set to supporting her – making sure she had good shoes, sleep and energy, as well as time to train. And then I wondered, wouldn’t that have been fun if she and I had registered and run together, mother and daughter. We’d both be beginning runners. Too bad Addie and I can’t run.
It’s true that my younger daughter doesn’t really run. Well, she does a run-like move for a few steps, but distance jogging is not particularly likely since a half block is as far as she can walk. Nope, Addie doesn’t run, so I guess we’ll cheer for Cate and dad at finish lines evermore.
But I am me, separate from Addie. I do have legs that will run if I tell them to…
Oh no, wait a minute. I cannot run, silly me. I think of the muscular, disciplined women who run, their devotion to their sport, their sheer endurance and ability and I think that is not me, I am not one of those kinds of moms. Too bad for me.
Which is exactly what I used to think upon witnessing the finesse and power, the staid control of a mother escorting her child with differences in ability through the world with strong, clear, focused love.
That was almost 3 months ago. The longest I’ve gone without running since is 2 days. I am not fast. I am not the best. I am not pristine in form. But I am a runner. My mind tells my feet, my shins, my knees and quads, my heart, my lungs, my fists what to do and how to feel about doing it. And they do what I say nearly every time.
When I run I am alone – that in and of itself is a rarity enough that I am still grateful for every moment. When I run it’s not about evoking a reaction from anyone else, not about doing what’s best for someone external to me. When I run I pause from concern about long term gains or connections that could result in relationships that lead to employment or independent living… Decisions are limited: I pick the roads that feel right to no one but me. I alter my foot strike based on what’s best for me. The sweat that drips off my elbows is a result of a gift for me, like confetti. The personal best I reach is a private celebration between me and me.
I take one hour every other day. I just claim it and take it. That hour and the lasting trail of grateful gladness that lingers after it make everything else that fills my life feel more…well, mine.
What present will you give yourself today?