I think we all have little mantras we repeat to ourselves to get us through life, right? And they might even change depending on whatever you’re going through! I remember almost 21 years ago when I had my oldest daughter Kayley, I was so overwhelmed as a young, new mother, trying to get her on a schedule and still get all my work done. At that time, I remember saying to myself, “slow and steady wins the race!” I was the slow tortoise, I guess, reminding myself to stick with it and keep going. Later in life, as I found myself with babies once again, I began to really understand how overwhelming life could be! Having two sets of twins in eighteen months is not for the faint of heart, folks. But we got through it, of course. My mantra then was, “it’s just ten minutes.” In ten minutes, this baby won’t be screaming anymore (hopefully.) In ten minutes, the bath will be over and I can get up off this damn floor. In ten minutes, daddy will be home from work. In ten minutes, these babies will all be happily slurping away on their sippy cups and bottles. Even when ten minutes stretched into twenty or even an hour, I just held onto the idea of ten minutes, because you can endure anything for ten minutes. I used it again a few years ago when I fell down the stairs, badly breaking my leg. In ten minutes, the painkillers will kick in. In ten minutes, I’ll be asleep. In ten minutes, I won’t feel sad anymore.
Lately, my mantra has been this: Do what you can, when you can. I say it to myself so often that I decided to paint it on a sign to put on my wall. This is what I’ve been doing lately: painting lots and lots of signs. I find it relaxing and fun, and people seem to dig them.
I’ve been intending to paint this one for awhile because it seems like it’s always on my mind. It’s no secret that I’ve battled depression and anxiety for many years, and one of the ways it manifests itself is in INTENSE feelings of guilt. I think we parents beat ourselves up too much anyway, but I think it’s even easier to do so when you have a kid with special needs. Many times I have wondered if I’m doing enough, or if I could have made things easier or better for my kid early on if I had just known more or done more. Even today, I second guess myself all the time; not just with Pablo, but with his sisters, too. I worry all the time that they will resent us for not doing more to give them a normal upbringing. Having a sibling with special needs is a hell of a lot of work, particularly when he looks like a regular kid but doesn’t act like one.
Here’s where the mantra comes in: do what you can, when you can. Can I give each of my kids their own bedroom? No. Can I send my son to the best private school for kids with autism? No. Can I take my kids to every movie they want to see? Nope. Can I make sure each one of my kids feels like life is fair? Hell no. But I can give them what they need. I can spend time with them one on one. I can create private areas for my girls in their shared bedroom. I can encourage them to use my crafting space to get away from each other and work on making things they love. I can let them get hamsters even though they smell and I am the one who ends up cleaning the cage. I can find some silly movie on Netflix we can all watch on the couch with pints of ice cream. I can make lots and lots of noise at school until the special ed program is changed altogether and my son doesn’t dread going to school every day.
I’m finding that Do what you can, when you can extends into my business life as well. I would LOVE to work my ass off, creating my own business doing what I love to do: making cool stuff. Going to shows like SNAP and CHA get me so fired up about it! Then I settle back into the reality of my life, where I am a wife and mom and have a son with autism who has three busy sisters and they all need me all day long. The struggle for me is feeling okay about saying, this is all I can do right now. There are many times when an amazing opportunity is right there in my lap, but I just cannot fit it into my life, and that is a huge downer for me. That’s when I say to myself, I am doing what I can. This is what I can do. This is how I can help my friends. This is how I can help my business. This is how I can support my wonderful husband. I can’t do everything I want to do, but I can do THIS. I can do this, right now. Maybe later I can do this, this, and that.
So my message to you, is – You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once. Sorry, Charlie. Just do what you can, when you can. And that’s enough! You are enough. You are doing enough, so quit being so hard on yourself. And if you want darling little signs like the one shown here, just holler at me!