I recently attended a Veteran’s Day programs for both of my children. Such different experiences. Eldest played in her school’s band, smiling with her friends and clapping for each portion of the program. Rachel, my daughter with autism, stood with her class and tried to keep up, but being nonverbal and noise sensitive, her performance was entirely different.
At some points my heart burst with pride. Rachel stood in her designated spot. She didn’t run! She didn’t yell out of turn! She covered her ears, but did not cry or act out in any fashion. These are amazing victories. She attempted to follow the choreography.
But she couldn’t keep up with the other kids. She missed her cues. When everyone else raised their ribbons in the air, she twirled hers in front of her face. When everyone else went still, she raised her ribbons high.
At those moments, my heart shattered with tears shoving to be spent. Proud moms and dads prowled around, cameras snapping and recording. I couldn’t decide. Do I want this on video? Do I want to look at my heart breaking over and over again because Rachel can’t do what the other kids are doing? Yet, I wanted to remember this forever because she has come so far, and I’m so amazed by her strength and determination.
It doesn’t seem fair. Rachel struggles so much. Everything is so difficult for her. Sometimes she can’t quite keep up. She can’t sing the songs. The “typical” girl standing beside Rachel kept glancing at Rachel, sometimes frowning because Rachel wasn’t doing everything just right. I envied the other parents in the room and envied the other kids. As much as I feel like we have grown as a family from the challenges brought about by Rachel‘s disabilities, I would trade it all if it meant Rachel could chat with friends, communicate with ease, play the clarinet like her sister.
But the speech portion of the program gave me a new perspective. A career Navy officer talked about the honor of his job and the sacrifices he and his family have made regarding his career. He praised his wife for her years of unwavering support. He said he and his wife believe all the sacrifices were worth it because they had a higher calling.
His words struck my heart. Motherhood, too, is a higher calling. No matter what child we are raising, we have a calling to sacrifice, to lay down our own needs and wants for something bigger than ourselves. And raising Rachel is one of the higher callings of my life. Just as a military serviceman or woman might not agree or understand his or her mission, even when I question the trials in my life I am still called to carry on. To do my duty with honor. To rise above my if onlys and what ifs. My higher calling is to love Rachel and my family to my best ability and to carry on every day in the face of all the challenges.
Later that night, at my niece’s Veteran’s Day choir concert, I sat behind that same Navy officer. I stopped him on the way out, tears in my eyes as I thanked him for his words. A bit confused, he asked me what he’d said that made such a big impact. I explained it was his reminder that my job is important, that even when things look bleak, difficult or meaningless, I have a higher calling. And it is a beautiful task.
As I blubbered, his wife gathered me into a big bear hug and told me being a wife and mom was all she knew, and how glad she was to have the honor of her very important job. I hugged her back and thanked her for her example. Without all her hard work, her husband’s 24 years of military service wouldn’t be possible.
Moms make the world a better place. So, on the days you doubt, on the days you’re weary and torn, and on the days you wonder what you’ve done all day, remember that the task of motherhood is a noble one, a higher calling. It’s worth the sacrifice, and each MOMent is precious.