Since the day my mother passed away five years ago, I’ve often thought about what I would say to her if given one last opportunity.
Would I tell her how very much I miss her?
Thank her for all the sacrifices she made for me?
Tell her that my brother, sister, and I are taking care of our father as she asked us to do?
At one point, I thought I might have told her all of that. But now that my two daughters with disabilities have grow into young women, I wouldn’t tell her any of those things. Instead, I’d say Four. Simple. Words.
The kids are alright.
The words should come as no surprise to her; for years, these were her words to me. Soothing words she shared with me every time I cried to her about some struggle one of my daughters was experiencing growing up.
I cried to her when one daughter suffered traumatic bullying and had to leave school for nearly two years.
When I heard about more birthday parties another daughter wasn’t invited to.
When a neurospyschologist told me one would have to be sent to a boarding school far away.
When an uninformed neighbor told all the neighborhood kids not to listen to my daughter because she was “slow."
Each time I cried to my mother, she uttered those same words.
"Gina, you have to have faith; the kids will be alright."
Seeing my children struggle couldn’t have been easy on my mother. She once admitted that, telling me that “raising a special needs child is especially difficult on grandparents.”
“We have to watch our children and our grandchildren struggle.”
And I’m pretty sure she, who was racked with her own anxiety, spent many sleepless nights worrying about us. But still, she never wavered in her faith.
The kids will be alright.
In my own pain and suffering, I was almost angry at my mother for deluding herself. How could my kids be alright? Their childhoods were already so difficult; their lives as adults could only be more challenging.
And what did my mother, who raised three typical kids, know about raising kids with disabilities anyway?
But she did know. I should have listened to her. She saw things in my kids that my pain, fear, and anxiety blocked from me; something I needed so badly, but couldn’t even fathom.
She saw hope.
And today, five years later, with my daughters age 20 and 17 respectively, I finally see it. My daughters both have exceeded my expectations. The daughter the neighbor referred to as “slow” is in her third year at a traditional college and has her driver's license, a great summer job, and a few very good and loyal friends. The other, a junior in high school, has overcome traumatic bullying experiences and will soon be on her way to fulfilling her passion of becoming a hairdresser. Both are even in healthy and happy relationships with loving, generous, and kind young men.
So mother, if you just so happen to be listening; please know, you were correct.
The kids really ARE alright.