Through humor, you can soften some of the worse blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive. -Bill Cosby
They say a clean house is a healthy house. While there may be truth to that, I had to let go of that fantasy years ago. With little to no planning, I became the crazy mother of 5. I had 4 kids in 5 years to be exact. I have an adolescent girl (from a previous life) who has given me a run for my money, and four boys under the age of thirteen. At one point, I had boys that were ages 5 and under and let me tell you that IS the definition of insanity. I have a husband who works five hundred miles away and that is only home on weekends. For all practical purposes – at least in terms of homework, dinner preparation, and the carpool scene – I am a single parent.
I grew up in a household that my friends referred to as “the museum.” My mother routinely did the “white glove test” to make sure that every piece of furniture was virtually spot-free. She was the definition of a perfectionist; even her spice containers were alphabetized. I don’t think any of my frilly dresses lacked a matching ribbon and a polished pair of Mary Jane’s. Let me tell you, there was a methodological system for everything. My mother was a loving and caring mother, don’t get me wrong, but there was an intense message that a certain set of standards would indeed be upheld. There was a built-in rule in our family: that maintaining strict order was a recipe for success.
Well, inevitably, I got older and life took me down a very unexpected path. My oldest son was diagnosed prenatally with a life threatening kidney and lung condition. This horrible ordeal resulted in a very lengthy hospital stay full of horrific twists and turns. Any predictability, as I had known it, was out the window. I was in a place where structure could not possibly exist; maintaining order was not an option.
I remember just months before his birth, saying out loud, ” I could never deal with having a child who was disabled.” Boy did someone show me otherwise. For months I carried on and just did what I had to do try and keep my son stable. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I was coping, but somehow I was. I remember a stranger in the NICU asked me if I was angry. I guess I would be lying if I were to say that on some level I was. Let’s face it, I didn’t get what I was expecting. I didn’t end up with a healthy child that everyone hopes for. I did, however; come to realize that I had received an imperfect blessing in disguise (A child that for years has taught me not to sweat the small stuff).
I think after months of my son Sam struggling to survive, I accepted that nothing was going to be perfect, nothing was going to be stable or predictable – not anything from that point on. I learned to let any rigid thinking or preconceived ideas go. I learned to “lighten up,” to be more free and most of all, to try and focus on the positive and find laughter – even in the face of adversity. I learned to embrace the challenges and find strength in knowing that things could always be worse. My son survived a near death experience at birth and for that I will always be grateful.
No matter how hard we try to mold our lives, there will always be some curve ball along the way. So rather than letting negative sets of circumstances eat us alive, it’s best to look for the proverbial silver lining. To give you an example, just the other day, I woke up, admittedly later than I should have, as my second oldest son Felix, was leaving for school. Even though he is still eleven, I never worry much about his getting out the door. He is extremely organized and self-sufficient – at least as much as any 6th grader can be. That bad mommy moment came when I realized that my special needs son had also managed to get himself up and out the door along with his brother. Being quite dependent, I had no idea how he managed to leave or how he was going to “show up” for school but I could only imagine! The old me would have been horrified, worrying that whatever mismatched, inside out attire he showed up in would be a blatant indication of my irresponsible parenting. Instead, I had to pause, take a deep breath and just chuckle. So what if he showed up without underwear, or if his teeth weren’t brushed or God knows what else? Instead, I smiled and simply felt good knowing he had made a special and unique accomplishment. Something that once would have ruined my day, actually made my day 🙂
Smiling or finding the humor in things can be an incredibly effective way of dealing. I haven’t always subscribed to this, but over the years, I have learned that if you can learn to light up and give a smile- even when you want to scream, an incredibly negative set of circumstances can actually be turned around.