Being a "Different" Mom
You know, when I was a little girl, after I had already lost my arm, I thought about what my own kids would think of me. I worried they would be embarrassed that their mom was different. I was afraid they wouldn't want me to be around their friends because they were ashamed I only had one arm. This is how my thoughts worked. I was always living in the future and always living in the "what am I gonna do 5 years from now when such 'n' such happens..." It's not such a great way to live because we don't know the future and we have no control over it. Two years ago, I wrote the story of how I lost my arm on my blog. After I wrote it, I let go of a lot of my self-image issues. A LOT. I stopped walking around, worried people would ask me what happened to my arm. I finally stopped letting it control my life. I even started letting my right arm show in pictures. This was huge for me. I was pretty proud of myself, I let go of something I had held onto for 19 long years. Even though I had let most of it go, there was still that wonder in the back of my mind, "what will Kaleb think and will he be embarrassed in front of his friends?" I know this is silly. I know it's silly because if one of you were telling me this, I'd be all, "girl, please, kids don't care about that, you're his mommy, he thinks you're perfect and that's all that matters." But somehow, when you're in the middle of your own insecurities, you can't convince yourself that it’ll be okay. Why do I care what kids think? Why am I worried what Kaleb's friends will say? I worry about that because I want Kaleb to feel like he fits in. I want him to feel like he's normal like every other kid. I never had that. I was always the different one. I was ALWAYS the tall one and then I quickly became the one with one arm. When you have the personality and the tendency to just want to fit in, being different is such a bitch. I hated my childhood because of this. I hated that not only was I bigger than everyone else, I stood out like a sore thumb. I even wanted to change my name to something like 'Jennifer' or 'Ashley' just so I'd have something that was like others. Fitting in and wanting to be like others is something I'll always battle with and even though that might be my biggest insecurity and battle, it doesn’t have to be Kaleb’s.
It took Kaleb a while to notice I was different. It weighed on my heart so often. When will he start asking? When will his friends start noticing? It was a day I dreaded and it’s a day I’ll never forget.
At Kaleb’s old day care, there was a window that all the kids looked out of, to see which of their mommy’s and daddy’s were going to show up first. I was usually one of the first, so as I would get out of the car, I’d see all these little people looking back at me and then looking to Kaleb, “there’s your mommy, Kaleb!” Well one day I noticed them pointing at me more than usual and turning to Kaleb, saying something to him that made his frown.
That day, when I walked in, Kaleb came running up to me and said, “you have 1 arm?!?” All his little friends apparently noticed I was different way before he did and they had been trying to tell him. As he was looking up at me in astonishment and disbelief, I said, “yeah, baby I have 1 arm.” I’ll never forget his face. He just couldn’t believe he had over-looked this very important fact about his mommy. I anxiously awaited a verbal response for him, as were the other kids and the teacher. It was like a really bad slow motion YouTube video that hurts to watch but you just can’t look away.
At that moment, as my 19 yearlong nightmare was playing out, Kaleb turns around, backs up into me, points at the kids and says, “Dis MY mommy! Dis Kay-Wub’s mommy!”
In 1.5 seconds, my 2 year old demolished all my fears. Kaleb showed me, that despite my imperfections, despite the fact his mommy is different and feels like she's got a spotlight on her at all times, he was proud to call me his mommy.
This was almost a year ago and since then, we’ve had many discussions about my arm. He asks on a weekly basis if I “still got just 1 arm” and of course I always respond with yes. He’s at a new daycare now with all new friends who are getting to know me, and a lot of them are asking about my arm as I come to pick him up. He reacts the same way towards them, very defensive of his mommy, but as soon as we get in the car he says something to the fact he doesn’t like having one arm.
I know we have a long road ahead of us. There have already been a few times I’ve had to tell Kaleb that I can’t do something because I have 1 arm. In the beginning, I tried to never let him hear me say “I can’t” but the truth is, no one person on this earth is able to do every single thing. I think it’s important for him to see me try, but it’s equally important for him to hear me say, I need help or I just can’t do it.
After the loss of my husband, it became even more important for me to teach him how to be independent and on the flip side, how important it is to help others. Now, at age 3, when we pull up to the house, he gets himself out of the car, opens the door to the house and comes back to see what I need help carrying. His “thoughtfulness” definitely didn’t happen overnight and without complaint but we’re getting there.
As I’m typing this, I can’t help to second guess myself if what I’m doing and teaching him is right. What I do know is, Kaleb was barely two years old and he already showed me that he didn’t care what his friends said.
Walking down the street, I might look odd or different and kids might stare but to the one that matters most, I’m just Kay-wub’s mommy.