“from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand”

It was a Facebook comment I read this morning, by someone whom I don’t know, but through Facebook orchestration, I am united with through mutual love and support of another.

I have a friend I have not seen since 10th grade. We were buddies. We mostly hung out at school or football games. She lived a few towns away, and before drivers’ licenses, that might as well have been states away. {It’s a lovely bonus sidenote to this story that I am going to see her TODAY!}

Paula and her daughter CarmynNow, she does live states away. But we are close. Facebook, that little tool that can be used for good or evil, has been so fruitful in bringing this woman, her family, her perspective into my life… and it is one I have come to count on.

We love a lot of the same things… family life, cooking and food, Jesus, our husbands, fun TV. But our lives are different. She has 4 littles. I have a unconventional blend. She is a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools. I have a few part-time gigs and am happy with public school for now. She gardens. I edit a teen magazine. She churches at home. I practically live at my church.

And the one factor that our American Society of Modern Moms seems to say should divide us, does not.

She has a child with special needs. I do not.

I have read countless articles about being a friend to parents of special needs children (I hate them, mostly… what to say, what not to say…). I am often flabbergasted at the challenges faced by the families in my circle, from juvenile diabetes to epidermolysis bullosa, Downs syndrome to spina bifida, food allergies to Angelman syndrome. The range of lifestyles and decisions and emotions and lessons and stress experienced by these mamas often leaves me feeling breathless and absolutely helpless. How many times can I say “Sending love and prayers?” How many times can I ask God “WHY” do some children have to struggle and suffer this way? How long before my lack of these challenges becomes an obstacle in my compassion and my ability to be the kind of friend these women need?

The truth is, though, that in the big ways, mamas are the same. We stress over how to Do This Thing that is raising our children in a safe, loving, educational environment, teaching them to be good people, advocating for them and empowering them all at once. We do our best but often feel inadequate, criticized, or judged. We want to feed them healthy foods and take advantage of teachable moments and expose them to a well-rounded cultural experience, but sometimes, we just want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix in peace for 5 minutes, even if it means we’re having PB&J for dinner.

And we all want to know we are not alone in this.

A few nights ago, I was talking to another friend. She, too, has friends facing the struggle of children with severe medical issues or special needs. We talked exhaustively about this subject, about how to best reach out, encourage, minister.

As we talked, the thought rang in my head that we were, indeed, advocating for these mamas, just amongst ourselves. We are saying to them, to you,

“Hey! We don’t get it. We likely never can and never will. But we get you. We see you and your struggle. We are here praying for you and cheering you on. We are loving your babies and making donations and telling your stories. It’s not much… it might not change a thing, but we are in this together.”

American mamahood is fully of petty competition and sometimes foolish worry. If we are not careful, we become products of marketing and media, rather than the organic fruit of one of creation’s most sacred and rewarding callings: motherhood. It doesn’t matter if we arrive at the same conclusions (breast vs. bottle, public vs. private vs. home, organic vs. processed, vaccines vs. not…). It matters that we value the walk we are all taking. It matters that when I turn my head and see another mama next to me, struggling, I do my best to give her a hand up and not to judge her. It matters that when I see a mama who is facing more, doing more, or “doing it better,” I don’t judge myself, because my lot is the lot given to me, and I have to do my own best on my own path.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t know each other’s hearts, because maybe we never can. It matters that we try to understand, that we respect each other, that we cheer for each other’s children. Let’s stop being afraid of having the wrong kind of compassion and instead just make sure we are not without it.

To learn more about Angelman Syndrome, please click here.

 

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