On Saturday we decided to spend some legit family time together and took Sweet Pea to a little local indoor carnival to ride some rides. She was tired by the time we got there after shopping, so we weren't so sure how it would go. But girlfriend loves her some ponies and gets really excited about merry-go-rounds, which is ironic because she cries every time we put her on my parents' pet pony. Go figure.
Hubby and Sweet Pea hopped up on a little white pony and I took my place on the sidelines with the other moms to take pictures and wave and yell, "Hi, Baby! Look at Mama! Over here! Yay!" right with the best of them. As the ride took its first turn around I noticed a young man with special needs joyfully waving at me, so I gave him a huge smile back and returned his happy greeting. When the ride came around again and he waved again, I had to do a double-take; were my eyes playing tricks on me, or were there two of the same guy?
Sure enough, when the ride spun back a third time I discovered my eyes hadn't deceived me. Identical twin brothers, one right behind the other, wearing entirely matching outfits right down to the black leather sandals on their feet, were riding the ride together. Around maybe 25 years old, one of them was having the time of his life, happily waving at the crowd and wiggling with delight. The other was acting more like Sweet Pea and taking it all in with a stoic expression but clearly enjoying himself. These young men both had special needs and were both non-verbal, but what really made me notice them (apart from the fact that twins always grab my attention, especially twins in matching outfits) was the fact that their clean, so-bright-they-could-be-on-a-Tide-commercial white t-shirts were clearly starched and ironed.
I had to find the mother of these young men because I instantly loved her. There's just something about an ironed, starched t-shirt that says, "My mom really has it together and really loves me."
The ride came to a slow stop and the guys waited patiently on their horses. Hubby and Sweet Pea came smiling over and I lingered a bit as we talked about what to ride next. Sure enough, the guys' mom came bustling over, tall and smiling with her camera on her wrist and yelled to the guys to get off the horses and follow her. She grabbed the hand of one and pulled him to the line for a race car ride with his brother following behind.
Sweet Pea rode another ride, and by the time it was over we knew she was getting pretty tired. We took her over to watch the race track ride spin and it so happened that the twins were just getting seated to ride themselves. Their mom stood on the sidelines, watching and smiling. The ride took off and again, the first brother loved it and the second wasn't so sure. As the ride spun, the moms on the sidelines watched, laughed, waved and shouted and the boys' mom kept up with the best of them. I kept glancing over and smiling as she took pictures and laughed and shouted to the second brother to keep his leg inside the car, along with a mom glare for good measure. She was exactly the same as all of us other mothers in the room, but she was special to me because I knew that while the rest of us would technically only do what she was doing for 10 or so years with our kids, she had already been doing it for 25 and would do it for many more to come.
Yet her energy was contagious. She showed no signs of, "Ug, I've done this a million times already" or of feeling self-conscious. She was just doing what she needed and loved to do for and with her kids. Man, was she good at being a mom; it was so obvious. I wanted to know her and I wanted to learn from her. I admired her smiles and energy and boisterous nature. Her love for her guys was clearly fierce, in the same way that every mother in that place had a will to protect, to cherish and to fight for her babies no matter their size. In fact, she reminded me a lot of my own mother. (Maybe part of it was the matching excitement over kiddie rides; my mom loves to put kids on rides!)
In just standing near her for that brief encounter and glancing at her a few times, I observed three things:
1. I am so proud to call myself a mother.
Each day I see and know mothers who are so good at mothering. They love their children so much and it is so clear and evident; everything about their being speaks of love for their families. You see it on their faces, in their photos, in their daughters' hair bows, in the way they kiss boo-boos and in the way they talk. It's just true what they say about really "getting" love and sacrifice when you have a child of your own and it's easy to see it in so many other mothers. I'm just proud to be a part of the sisterhood of motherhood.
2. Were the situations reversed, were her guys mine, I would be just like her.
Well, okay, let's be honest with ourselves- there's no way my boys would have ironed t-shirts. I never iron anything unless I absolutely have to! But I know several friends are laughing at me reading this because they know that given the opportunity I would dress any and all of my children in matching, styled and coordinated outfits until they were old and gray. In fact, my boys would probably get matching gray newsboy caps because I sure do love me some newsboy cap.
Joking aside though, what I'm trying to say is that needs or special needs or no needs at all, I will mother my children to the best of my ability. I will do my best to meet their needs, whatever those needs may be. I will choose to be joyful in the raising and rearing of my children. I will fight for them. I will do things with them and for them that make them smile. I will celebrate their victories and milestones and mourn and support their setbacks. I will care for them and clean up after them and hold their hands my whole life and theirs, whether they are two or twenty-two and whether they need it or want it or not.
3. Mothers need prayer. So much prayer.
I prayed for that Mama in that moment, because as joyful as she is, I know it's hard. I can only imagine how tired she must be sometimes. How exhausting it must have been to parent two non-verbal toddlers. How much sleep she's lost over the years wondering about therapies and money and interventions and IEPs and doctors. I prayed for God to encourage her heart and to give her the strength and stamina that all mothers need, but I also praised Him for the clear joy and natural giftedness that woman has as a mother. I thanked Him for using her to touch lives around her and influence others through her love as a mother.
I wish I could have talked to her, but I didn't want to be an awkward weirdo or intrude on her moment with her family. But I just wanted to say, "Good job, Mom. Your guys are so handsome in their ironed t-shirts and huge smiles. They obviously get those smiles from you."