My daughter desperately wanted to go to summer camp this year. With her sensory processing issues, dyspraxia, epilepsy, autism-y issues, and chronological age of barely 9, we didn’t think she’d be quite ready to handle an overnight camp on her own. We’d talked about a special needs type camp, but, they are very expensive, our wallets are relatively light, and her 2e nature doesn’t seem to quite fit with most of the more specialized type camps.
Thankfully, I found a mother daughter overnight camp that seemed like it would be perfect. I’d be there to help her. She gets a camp experience. We get mommy-Kbear time, which is pretty infrequent most weeks. Perfect. It was great for all those things. But, I wasn’t prepared for just how hard it would be.
To be clear, all of the other women and girls were wonderful, compassionate, understanding. The weekend was low-key, so no one even questioned when we had to sit out of some activities or always trailed along in the back of the crowd. I don’t think most of the other campers even knew KBear and I were managing all her differing needs the whole time. But, seeing typical daughters interacting with their mothers, evoked pangs of grief that I just wasn’t prepared for.
I had anticipated taking extra breaks. I had anticipated needing extra mom-patience. I had anticipated mini meltdowns as we walked from one location to the next. I had not anticipated a simultaneous swelling of pride and sorrow.
My girl did awesome. I am so proud of all the hard work she’s been putting in these past few years to learn herself and her needs. She had only a few minor meltdowns. She prioritized the activities she definitely wanted to go to and strategically scheduled breaks to make that happen. I think back to six months ago and am in awe of her ongoing transformation.
But, the other side of me regularly fought back tears of envy and sorrow. It’s easier to celebrate our successes and appreciate our own unique mommy-daughter bond when I’m not perpetually confronted with what I’m missing out on. Holding baby KBear, I had visions and dreams of what our relationship would look like, and all weekend, parading right in front of my nose, there it was. My unrealized fantasized future unintentionally flaunted before me.
It’s hard to be around normal people with normal relationships. It reminds me of all the ways my dreams have had to change. It reminds me of all the ways it could have been. It reminds me that other girls have things so much easier than my baby. It reminds me that not every mama has to be continuously on-guard and anticipating pitfalls and assessing energy levels and sensory input and listening for the tell-tale signs I’ve come to know that we’re approaching and crossing the line of no return. It reminds me that our lives are different and will be different for the foreseeable future.
I’ve done my fair share of grieving, and I know I will continue to do more. And, truly, I’m getting to a place where I can, most days, see the beauty of our relationship just as it is. Maybe someday I’ll have even more acceptance. Maybe someday the loss of what might have been will be healed completely. But, for now? It’s hard being around normal people.
Thank you for forgiving my poetic license to use the word "normal". I don't really like the word, and usually use "typical", but in the name of creative leniency, I chose to use "normal". Not sure why, but it just sounded better to my ear.