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Whenever I Leave My Special Needs Child, a Piece of My Heart Stays Behind

I am filled with a rush of unfamiliar anxiety as my three older children and I board an airplane for a family wedding. To leave my youngest at home, even with his daddy, feels a bit like leaving him beside a pool while I go take a shower.

It’s not that his daddy won’t take good care of him while I’m gone; I know of course that he will. It’s just that my youngest child shares my heart a little more than the other three. And how could he not? At 2½, my son Amos has a wide smile and a kind heart; but he also has extra special needs. Try as he might, his words have still not come. I am his link to the outside world and to leave him fills me with anxiety.

And yet it’s so unlike me to feel this way, as I’m usually flying out the door and truly never looking back. I am the mom who doesn’t call all weekend if she takes off on girls’ trips and scoffs as my friends check in with their families repeatedly over FaceTime. I may feel a twinge of guilt, but not enough to change my independent ways.

That is, until it comes to Amos. The bond of a mother and her special needs child defies the imagination. It fills me with such a primal need to protect that it leaves me gasping for air.

Image Source: Adrian Wood

I worry what he will think when he wakes from his nap and we have disappeared. What if he’s thirsty or hungry? Who will know that he wants to watch Daniel Tiger or ice cream from the local drugstore? I forgot to tell my husband he likes cookies and cream.

I alone know him like I know myself, and his dependence on me is grand and scary all at once.

I worry about my baby back home. I anticipate Amos’ every need; I’m like his virtual interpreter, and to leave him honestly frightens me.
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I like to think this time away will let my youngest son and his dad get to know each other a bit more intimately. After all, this will be the first time one of us has ever spent a whole weekend with just one child. Me taking “The Big Three” feels so easy without having to navigate flights and a 2-year-old’s finicky nap schedule. I’m so happy to give them my undivided attention, plus an empty lap and arms that are often filled.

I worry though, about my baby back home. I anticipate Amos’ every need; I’m like his virtual interpreter, and to leave him honestly frightens me.

But perhaps my worry isn’t just about this weekend. (It never, is you know.) Those paperclips dangle loosely and precipitously, always clinging to a deeper concern. Our worry masks our fear and my fear was linked closely to the future, the big void of the unknown. Amos alone in the world and this weekend was the domino for my thoughts of the future that seemed to be coming quickly. A place that fills me with dread these days and yet, I am trying to convince myself to not go there.

My mind wanders without permission even while I am asleep and the furrows on my forehead deepen and I feel my shoulders tense, my body’s signature on the thoughts I try to shrug away. Amos will be fine for a weekend, I tell myself. It will be a gift for him and for me. I don’t really believe it yet, and though I’m trying, the cloud of the future beckons me behind every sunbeam.

Goodbye my green bean, we will miss you more than you ever could know and perhaps that is the lesson your mama needs most today. Your future though unknown, your today beautiful and your place in our family, the seat of honor. And that is the declaration of my heart that will win against my fickle mind and the thoughts that circle, amounting to nothing.

You are true joy and the part of my heart that is most precious and belongs mostly to you.

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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