Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another guilty confession, with a happy ending

This weekend was my college reunion, I'd been really looking forward to it. Only Max was under the weather, so he ended up staying home with Dave and Sabrina and I did the four-hour drive Saturday morning.

I can't lie: It was a relief. I knew Max wouldn't love the loud band that was going to play at the BBQ (I'd called ahead and asked about the noise level), the endless photo-taking, all the people milling around. Even Sabrina, usually unflappable, burst into tears when I spotted a long-lost friend and screeched, "OH MY GOD, IT'S ALYSSA!!!"

Also, full disclosure, I wasn't up for the stares. I just wasn't. I didn't want to explain about Max, I didn't want to recount what had happened to him, I didn't want to reassure everyone he's doing OK. I just wanted things to be carefree, like they were in college.

So, of course, driving up all I felt was guilt, guilt, guilt. Then I called Dave, and heard a lot of background noise. "Where are you?" I asked. He and Max were at an amusement park. "Isn't Max not feeling well?" I asked. "No, he's having the time of his life!" Dave said. I called again a few hours later. Again, lots of noise in the background. "Are you still at the park?" I asked. "No," said Dave, "we're at White Castle eating cheeseburgers." I called back a few hours later. This time I could barely hear Dave. "WE'RE AT OUR BLOCK PARTY!!!" he shouted into the phone. "MAX IS JUMPING AROUND IN THE BLOW-UP BOUNCY THING!"

My boys basically partied all day long. It's a wonder they didn't go to Hooters that night.

Meanwhile, Sabrina and I had a wonderful time: We had hot dogs and ice-cream sundaes, painted pictures and made sand sculptures, stayed at a good friend's house whose kids have maybe every toy ever created.

In the end, it was a happy weekend for everyone.

It's funny, you spend so much time trying to make sure your child with special needs is included in things. And then, you leave him out of something—because he won't like it, because it's the right thing to do, or both—and suddenly, you're ridden with guilt. Though I know leaving Max at home was the best possible decision, in the end.

A vaccine against the swine flu would be a wonderful, but someone really needs to create an anti-guilt vaccine. Sign me up!


  1. Hey, you have to stop with the guilt. It eats you up. And at the end of the day, your babies just know that you feel like crap, and they think it's THEIR fault. So just drop the damn guilt. You will make your kids feel bad and they won't know why--they'll feel it emanating from you and think they did something wrong!

    It is a GOOD thing to take one child off by themselves--Sabrina, especially, needs a little bit of Mommy and Little Girl time, without always having to worry how Max is doing, if Max is OK, what Max needs....sometimes, she needs to be first. Same deal with Max--a little boy needs a man to set the example--I am so glad mine have a good grampa. And little boys sometimes need to have a break from hypervigilant moms. I know mine enjoy it when they spend the day with my folks--probably because they're away from watching and worrying ME!

    I often enough (not always, but a time or two each month) dump just one at "the Gramps" and have a special day with the other. My oldest is a fidgeter, so he wouldn't do well at a concert or a puppet show. He does like things like bumper cars or those blow up bouncy things or long hikes or bike rides---anything athletic or involving motion that the baby might have a harder time with.

    So, I cut the cloth according to their own measure.

    Make a mid-year resolution Ellen--NO MORE GUILT. It just eats you up and doesn't help the situation. I just imagine it rolling off my back whenever I get a mood like that--it works, too.

    If this makes no sense I just got in from work and I'm TIRED! Good night to y'all!

  2. Barbara from BostonJune 9, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    Ellen if you feel the need to be absolved then you have earned that right. But you have no need of it. You are a fine Mommy a very good person and a loyal family member and parent. Its ok, to have all of your feelings. Sometimes it must be so hard...for both you and Dave. And all the other parents. But God Bless you you still get up in the morning and do your utmost best.
    Its 2AM. i just finished watching the movie Dead Man Walking. It was profound. I have wanted to see it since it came out. Guess I am waxing a tad philosophical.
    I am proud of you and all the others. Its the toughest job you will ever love...

  3. Take this experience and remember it next time you find yourself feeling guilty. It turned out Max had a great day, which he enjoyed much more than he would have enjoyed the reunion.

    I think it is important that all kids, including those with special needs, learn that sometimes other people's needs come first. We want so much for our kids to feel that they are special, that we sometimes go off the deep end and fail to teach them that everyone else is special, too. Here's where my own guilt comes in. My daughter has severe cerebral palsy, but is quite intelligent. I saw that people took one look at her and assumed that she was severely mentally delayed as well. So they tended to either ignore her or talk to her as if she were an infant. So I went out of my way to build her up, to include her in every conversation, to extol her accomplishments, etc. Now I realize that I went too far, because the end result was that she turned out to be an extremely self-centered person who thinks her needs and desires have top priority. So I think we always need to balance things out, to let our children know that mom and sister and everyone else have needs that should be considered, too.

    On a lighter note, I loved the Hooters comment! You crack me up!

  4. Please don't feel guilty. You are a wonderful mom and you deserve time away with out feeling guilt.

    You had a great time and so did Max. So please don't feel guilty you are an amazing mommy!

  5. Don't slap me for this, although I'm sure you'll want to in certain moments. Don't go into situations thinking about explaining Max. He's Max. He's normal, in his own way yes, but still a normal kid. If people stare let them. People need to see more variety in life anyway.

  6. I've got the guilt problem as well so if you hear of a remedy for it sign me up! I laughed out loud reading this post. It seems every time I leave E with his dad, they end up having the times of their lives. It's as if they were just waiting for me to leave! So glad you went and had a good time. It was much deserved.

  7. looks like all he needed was time with dad

    sounds like a fun day was had by all

  8. Just wanted to say I agree with Sarah. Don't slap me either! :) You really shouldn't have to explain Max's story (unless you want to) anymore than you should have to explain why he has brown hair.

  9. Sarah and Lisa, I don't want to slap you—I want to hug you. You are so very, very right. And you've inspired tomorrow's post!

    Felicia, Erin and Barbara: I know the guilt is not warranted, but it just seeps in. I think it's a combo of working-mom guilt and special-needs-mom guilt. I'm working on it!

    Galen: Wise words, as always. I love having you here telling us parents with younger kids about your experiences and the lessons you've learned.

  10. Banish the guilt monster! I have girl's nights with no boys because I dont' feel like getting into it, which is funny because i end up getting into it while we're all talking.

    You have a right to have moments that aren't defined by your child's disability--if a reunion is your choice, then so be it!

  11. there is no end to the amount of guilt we feel as parents is there?! I'm glad it was a happy ending for everyone -and it sounds like it turned out just like it was meant to. A father-son weekend and a mother-daughter weekend - perfect!

  12. "My boys basically partied all day long. It's a wonder they didn't go to Hooters that night."

    I thought this was priceless!!! :)

  13. It was good for Max to spend some "Boy Time"sounds like he had a blast and did a ton!


Thanks for sharing!

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