Last week I had a chance to renew some wonderful friendships at the American Mothers Convention which was held in Colorado Springs. Having represented the nation as one of the American Mothers a few years back, I was with friends. The organization is the actual sponsor of Mother’s Day. In fact, it was 100 years ago this year that America celebrated the first Mother’s Day. I was feeling at home with this year’s crop of nominees for both National Mother of the Year and The National Young Mother of the Year. I spent four days with inspiring women that have been strong influences in their homes and communities.
Sabrina Wisher, a single mother, was told that her now 23-year-old daughter, Mikayla, would never live beyond her first year. Throughout her daughter’s life, Sabrina has had to fight the system. Most recently, because Mikayla has frequent seizures and is non-ambulatory and non-verbal, she needed a specialized bed. Medicaid and the state denied the request repeatedly. Sabrina took her battle for a bed public and not only was she able to acquire a bed, this determined mom launched Mikayla’s Miracle and Blessings Foundation. She now purchases much-needed items to enhance the lives of others with disabilities, from beds, like her daughter’s, to iPads for autistic individuals. Sabrina has been extraordinarily generous toward others even though she and her daughter have great needs themselves.
I reflected on other moms that I know, who have children that they defend, teach, love, and sacrifice for every day. Moms that keep going often late into the night. These mothers do those things after their children are past childhood and well into their adult years. These are the mothers of autistic adult children. These adults often require care – much like very young children – yet on a larger scale. Many of these moms don’t get the kisses and hugs that fill our hearts at the end of a long day. These moms don’t get the feedback that moms of typical children receive. These moms may care for their children for years and never hear the words “I love you.”
My two typical kids would scheme for days to surprise me with a flower, a note, or a goofy overly sentimental card. This was a type of payday for all of the breaking-up of fights, wiping of noses, or mopping up of tears from scraped knees or from broken hearts. As schmaltzy as Mother’s Day can be, it was a sweet day to look forward to for the handmade cards with the fingerprints on the envelopes. In grade school, our son Madison, who has autism, would bring home a card that he would make in class, but unless I found it in the bottom of his backpack, he would not hand it to me. He had no idea what Mother’s Day was and would live that day like any other day.
It was not until Madison was a teenager that he would even repeat the words, “I love you,” when prompted. However, one night, when he was around 19, he went up to his room for bed and spontaneously his voice loudly pierced the darkness with the words, “I LOVE YOU, MOMMY.” Few words have ever been so delicious and so longed for.
For many mothers of autistic children – though they have had all of the same demands and maybe more – than moms of typical children, they will not get a card or a hug on Mother’s Day and perhaps never will. If you are the mother of an autistic child, be assured that your child loves you deeply. If you know a mom who lives with a profoundly autistic child and you see her in the next few days, you may want to give her a hug and tell her that she is loved and that you are a messenger for someone whose life is better because of her.
Happy 100th Mother’s Day to all moms because it is a challenging job in all situations.