This post comes from Kristen who you can find at The Prodigal Son’s Mother. She just started her blog so go on over and say hello! Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your story. If you would like to share “your mommyhood”, email me at elle dot mommyhood at gmail dot com.
I am a mother of the three most amazing children. Despite myself. My mother refers to me as a “Recovering Dead Head,” but I don’t think you ever get over dropping out of college your senior year to follow hippies around the country.
I did have the great good fortune to fall in love with and marry a chef– who is also exceedingly competent in just about everything. Go ahead, be jealous. Everyone should marry a man who can cook. And fix stuff. And calm babies and dogs.
Just over a year after we married, we became parents. Like almost everyone I know, we were too young, too broke, and too unprepared. If I had anything going for me, though, it was that I had been working in child care programs for several years. Eventually, I would go back to college and get a degree in human development.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve helped shape early childhood policy for state governments, trained teachers from around the country, and coached hundreds of new moms through the first years of their children’s lives. A huge part of what inspired a career supporting educators and families were the challenges I faced with my own children.
You see, our middle son is bi-polar. It took us nearly two decades to determine that. In the meantime, there was his entire first year of life where he cried constantly.
There were the years of sleepless nights, oh, and the night terrors. There was the manic behavior that got him labeled as “disruptive” and “class clown.” There was the early onset of drug abuse to self-medicate. Criminal behavior. Suicide attempts. Expulsion from high school. Drug overdoses. The list is long and heart-rending.
Everyone in my house suffers from his disorder. And because bi-polar disorder manifests in such socially unacceptable ways, instead of garnering support from the greater community, like a child who is wheelchair bound, say, our family often gets judged and ostracized. Right now, our son’s condition seems to be under control. It will never go away, though.
There is so much more to parenting than dealing with the bi-polar disorder, though. “Bi-polar” does not define us. So let me introduce you to my children, the way My Personal Chef and I see them:
- Thing 1 just turned 21. She’s graduating from college this spring, with plans for pharmacy school. She’s a rule-follower, and on time for things, and really good at math and sciences. She’s forever frustrated by my “roll with it” hippie ways. She’s beautiful. She’s stupid-cute in love with a Marine. Her father absolutely cannot say no to her.
- Thing 2 just turned 20. He’s brilliant and creative. He was born a musical prodigy. He has a quick wit—although it is usually REALLY inappropriate. He is also the most empathetic person I’ve ever met, always siding with the underdog and befriending the friendless.
- The Evil Genius is twelve. Since birth he has been figuring out ways to control the people and environment around him. When he grows up, he wants to “Rule the Universe.” Don’t worry, he assures me that he will be a most benevolent dictator. “Mom, some Mother’s Day instead of giving you tulips, I’m going to give you Holland, okay?”
Aren’t they terrific?
Over the years, I have been amused and tickled and inspired by the courage and sheer chutzpah that parents demonstrate day in and day out. I’ve started sharing some of their stories over at The Prodigal Son’s Mother. You are welcome to come visit anytime!