A Mother's Strength
June 24, 2016
by Sharhonda Stockman
I don’t think I would be the person I am today if it were not for my 12-year-old son Micah. I’m not saying that I wasn’t a good person before, but I don’t think my perspective would be the same if I did not have a child on the autism spectrum. I have learned to accept Micah not being a “typical child” like his twin brother Ty or his six-year-old sister Brooklyn. I am learning to accept and understand what God wants him to be.
I was once that mother who continuously set goals and kept track of where I wanted Micah to be each year. When he didn’t reach those goals, I was crushed. It depressed me and I worried myself sick. All of those years of worrying about Micah’s outcome made me miss the milestones he was achieving right in front of me. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for your child, but it’s about wanting the best for them at their pace and at Godspeed. So at this point in my life, I have learned to live in the present and be excited about what is happening right now.
I draw strength from Micah’s smile. I see him progressing in an area where he wasn’t as strong in last year and that gives me strength and hope. But I’m not always a pillar of strength. Sometimes I get frustrated by the way people assume mothers with special needs children are warriors who have it all together. People especially think that of me because my husband Shawn is part of a successful singing group. But it’s important for our friends and family to know that we need help, too.
Sometimes we moms can be prideful, but I’ve learned that it is OK and necessary for us to open our mouths and ask for support. It’s OK to call our loved ones to the plate and ask them to lend an ear so that we can vent about our day, or ask them to babysit for a few hours to catch a movie, or have lunch with a friend, or go to a sports bar to watch a game. We need that and there is nothing wrong with that. We need that “me time” to re-energize ourselves. We should not feel ashamed to ask for help and our loved ones should not assume that we don’t need it.
There is not a month that goes by that I don’t tear up when I look at Micah because I am so afraid for him. How will he navigate this world as an adult? If I am having these thoughts, I know that other mothers of children with special needs are too. I am sure that we experience the same anxieties, discouragement and sadness. I am frustrated that there is still not enough being done on the research side and I know that other moms with children on the spectrum feel the same way.
I am still amazed that there is so much money being raised by big powerhouses, however, we are no closer to figuring out why 1 and 68 kids are diagnosed with autism. Or why this disorder affects boys more than girls. Not enough is being done to find a cure, let alone to find the root cause of autism. That is why Shawn and I created Micah’s Voice, a foundation which provides education, awareness, support and financial assistance to families of special needs children. It is important for us to empower families and give a voice to these children so that they can enjoy the best quality of life possible.
People often ask me where do I see Micah’s future or what are my future goals are for him. When people do that, I get really irritated. Why? Because I don’t know what the future holds for us. I don’t even know why Micah’s brain does what it does. I don’t even know why he still has a hard time feeding himself at 12 years old. I don’t know why sometimes it is hard for him to have dialogue with someone.
So you know what? I am living in the moment when it comes to him. Because worrying about the future is going to kill me. What I mean by that is worrying about what the future holds keeps me with a broken heart. It keeps me anxious, not sleeping or eating, it keeps my blood pressure up, and it keeps me from not connecting with my husband or my other children. But what I love the most about being a mom is waking up each day and having another chance to get things right.
There is no question that Micah has made me a better person and there is something bittersweet about that. Would I have picked this for him? Absolutely not. I would give my life 10 times over for him not to have had this diagnosis. But as much as his disorder is a hard pill to swallow, this is his journey and our journey together and I couldn’t imagine another child to take this walk with. I am constantly growing and evolving as a woman, a mother, and as an autism activist for Micah. And as long as I have a breath in my body I will fight for him.