I have been to Seattle Children’s Hospital so many times with my son that I’ve become weirdly numb to the routine. I watch, detached, as families walk through the doors seeking answers to impossible questions or treatments for an illness that seems to have no name.
I’ve been there. I’ve done that. You would think it would be old hat by now. But today as I walked into another medical appointment with my 24-year-old man-child, Andrew, I realized that I have NOT become numb to the emotions packed in those walls. They stick to me like glue.
Andrew is a medical anomaly. His symptoms and ailments can’t be found in a textbook. His medical needs keep me on an emotional roller coaster and I am bone-tired of knocking on doors and asking for help. Sometimes my experience of Mommyhood feels like a slow, grinding hill-climb up the steepest part of the North Cascades. The trail is full of rocky switchbacks and too many tall trees. Sometimes I just want to turn back, roll down the hill, and hope to land softly.
Last week I rolled down that rocky hill. On my way down, bruised, battered, and mad, I called two friends. One friend offered up a dose of humor and an open heart, and one friend offered to stand in my shoes for a while. My friend, Julie, left her own Mommyhood duties in Arizona and flew to Seattle to offer me a little perspective, a lot of love, and new energy to my home.
She reminded me that I am not my children. And that it is okay to let go a little, or a lot. She gave me permission to allow my son to fail, to get lost, and to eat a diet of Gummy Bears and Cola flavored slushies three meals a day.
It feels like ripping off a limb. I’ve spent two and a half decades trying to understand the mysteries of autism and a decade fighting for Andrew against a rare genetic disorder that led to a bone marrow transplant. I guess those are the emotions that still cling to me like glue.
When I dropped Julie off at the airport today, she made one request: “When you get home, don’t pick up the house, sort the laundry, or make a grocery list,” she said. “Fill the tub and sit in it. You’re taking a sabbatical.”
I took her words to heart. I sat in the tub all afternoon. I ate cookies and popcorn. When I finished one magazine, I tossed it to the floor and started another. When the water got cold, I refilled the tub and added more bath salt. And when my phone rang, I turned it off and closed my eyes.
I took care of my body. I tended to my soul. I let all the emotions rise and fall away, and somehow, I felt a little brighter when I walked back into my world.
Mommy Sabbatical. I highly recommend you take one.
All my best to you,
Kristin Jarvis Adams is a public speaker and advocate for children with special needs, helping to bridge the gap between the outside world and the inner world of autism. Her speaking engagements have included: Seattle Festival of Trees Gala, a benefit for Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Seattle Children’s Autism Clinic. Learn More>>