Who Am I? A Special-Needs Mom Finds Herself (With A Little Help From The Super Bowl)

SaintJanuary 15, 1967. A great day in history – the day that the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs before 61,946 fans in Los Angeles’ 100,000 seat Memorial Coliseum in the very first Super Bowl .

I know what you are thinking:  ”Why the hell is Saint talking about football?  We come to read the Thinking Moms’ to getaway from testosterone-filled subjects such as football, not to get a history lesson in it.”  Just bear with me –it should take a TMR spin by the time I am done – or at least I hope it does.

As some of my peeps have mentioned, my TMR job is to put together a blog calendar each month that indicates what is special about each day.  It could be of global importance such as the upcoming Inauguration Day, or something as simple as the anniversary of the first Super Bowl.  Ahhh, the very first Super Bowl.  Just the thought of it filled me with glee.  You see, back in my past life – you know, the one that didn’t include a child with special needs who basically sucks me dry of all time, energy and money- I loved football.  Born and raised a Giants fan, I learned to bleed blue at an early age.  Even though I was not allowed to actually watch the game with my dad until I was in college since he was afraid of me hearing bad words, he taught me how to be a fan. You always root for the Giants and any team that is opposing an NFC East team.  End. Of. Story.
As an adult, my friend Kim and I would travel to Albany, NY each August to visit training camp. We had friends in the area so we would hang out at the University of Albany all day, and visit with our friends at night. We were elated to be personally escorted to the sidelines on an official golf cart by the Giants Video Director whose children I happened to babysit for. We took amazing pictures and sat amongst the media, wives and children. Not to date myself, but I can still remember how sweet Phillipi Sparks was playing with his small children – one of whom happens to be American Idol winner Jordan Sparks – when he would come off the field. I could not wait to hit “Autograph Alley” to fill my training camp guide with as many autographs and pictures as possible. I still remember Howard Cross as being one of the nicest players to the fans.

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Even better than training camp was when I received a call from my cousin who could no longer use his season tickets.  Did I want them?  Does a cow moo?  Does a bird fly? OF COURSE I WANTED THEM!  I had always tried to get to a game each season – but every game – it was just too good to be true.

“Ummm– Saint, you are still rambling about football – can you get on with it?”

Ok – sorry.  I get so excited reminiscing about these days that I tend to go off course. I promise– I’ll get to my point… soon.

So… off  to the stadium I went for each home game where I would meet up with a group of friends who were just as fanatical as I was.  We started early and stayed late.  A typical 1:00 game meant that we arrived around 9:00am to set up our tailgate.  First order of business was to get the grills going for breakfast.  What can I say?  We are from Jersey,  so it was all about the Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwiches.  (Don’t judge – none of us knew what a GFCF diet was back then.)  The food was cooking, the beer was flowing (or peppermint schnapps spiked hot chocolate on those cold days) and everyone was happy.  Breakfast turned to lunch which turned into a post-game dinner in the parking lot.  I mean really – what is the point of sitting on Route 3 in traffic when you can spark up the grill again after the game and hang out for a few more hours?  More often than not, we were one of the few left in the lot when the cleaning crews came around for the garbage.  Needless to say, it was an all-day event and one of the first things I had to stop doing when I became a mom.  Even if I had the disposable income to spend on tickets, parking and tailgate food, I certainly did not have an entire Sunday to sacrifice for my favorite sport.

super-bowl620-v1-620x412Just recalling those days fills me with warm thoughts and a sense of longing for easier times. Although some say it is better to watch from the warmth and comfort of one’s own home, I respectfully disagree.  Yes, I am one of those fans.  The ones that participate in every wave and every “charge.” What makes it worse is that I was also a cheerleading coach, so I *may have also been the one who would call a cheer for each play on the field.  It’s hard for me to hear a ref call a first down without immediately thinking, “1st and 10, let’s do it again<clap, clap>. GO!”  Yup – I am one of THOSE fans.

But those days are gone. At first, I marked all games in my planner to ensure I wouldn’t miss a play, but at this point, I cannot even recall the last time I got to sit and watch an entire game.  I try to catch pieces of them, but it is always while doing the gazillion other things that sit on my never-ending to-do list.  My passion has not died down for the plays I do see, and my daughter has often muttered, “crazy freak” under her breath as she shakes her head and walks away while I am screaming at the television.  I am not sure when it happened, but I went from being a die-hard football fan to an overextended mom whose child thinks is nuts.

This realization made me think that being a mom is pretty much the only identity I have left.  I used to have hobbies, interests and pastimes. I had dreams and set goals for myself. I dreamt of taking a photography class. Now – I am pretty much just trying to get through each day without forgetting something imperative.  It brings to question:  Who am I? What do I like to do?  What places do I want to visit?  I don’t think I know anymore.  If you asked me to describe myself, I wouldn’t know how to besides being a mom and my occupation. However, those are things I do, and should not be who I am.  Life as I know it reminds me of the Dunkin Donuts commercial from many moons ago where Fred the Baker’s life revolves around, well… donuts.  Kind of like a Stepford Mom whose day revolves 100% around her child’s needs – when not addressing the needs of her students at work. How boring is that?

If you can not view the video click here, or copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyZtMfMWONI

On January 5th, Poppy challenged us to do something for ourselves every day for 21 days.  I thought it was a GREAT idea.  Yes!!!!  I was in – definitely gonna do it.  Ummmm – here we are 10 days later.  Can you guess how many days I have even stopped to think about the challenge? You got it: zilch.

So, with this very public blog, I am giving myself a new challenge – and expect you all to hold me to it.  I am going to try to figure out what makes me tick.  What do I like to do?  How should I spend my spare (ha ha) time?  Are my former self’s interests the same as my current self’s?  In TMR world, I can potentially be (God willing) the first empty-nester of the group.  Then what? Will I have an identity if it does not include having to be the end-all, be-all for my daughter?  Truthfully, right now I wouldn’t , and that has gotta change.  After all, my nickname is “Saint,” not “Martyr.”  As much as I hate to say it, I would bet my next paycheck (that I desperately need) that I am not alone in this.  How many of you feel the same exact way?  How many others have lost their identity while trying to recover their children? Who else wants to try to remember who they are?  Join me. Please.  I know this will not happen overnight, so am going to give myself the next year to explore and discover.  My first blog of 2014 will be an introduction to the new me.  Even though I am tempted to delete that last sentence because it gave me a mini panic attack to write (seriously), I am going to hold myself to it and hope you do too.  Let’s be complete individuals so our children can do the same.

Now, back to January, 1967… ”<Groan>  but Saint, we finally had you off football”… one of the heroes of the game, Max McGee, was reportedly just a hungover back-up with little chance of playing when he entered the locker room that morning.  By the end of the day, due to an injury to Boyd Dowler, he had caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.  In his previous 14 games, he had only caught four passes for 91 yards.  If you ask me, Max just reminds us that we should NEVER count our kids out.  One day they are the underdog, the next day they are the star.

~ Love, Saint

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9 Responses to Who Am I? A Special-Needs Mom Finds Herself (With A Little Help From The Super Bowl)

  1. Susan Daley says:

    Thank you for inspiring me. Today. I needed it. I feel hugged!

  2. ellinor says:

    Thousands of miles away but still I feel the exact way. Keep fighting! Ellinor/sweden

  3. Lisa says:

    This is exactly where i am…..who am i besides a mom to 3 boys with various special needs? I have most certainly lost myself along the way. I quit smoking 2 months ago. I am eating better and trying to figure out exactly who i am because I have lost myself along this autism journey.

  4. Thinkingmominthedesert says:

    I have asked myself the same question recently. It sounded more like, “Now, who the
    [email protected]€k are you and what have u done with the old me?” Haha! As 2012 came to a close, the holidays (&other stressful shit that happens that jolly time of the year) brought me to face certain things, whether I liked it or not. One of the realities I liked facing, was something I’ve put ALL my energy-my entire heart, mind & soul- into for the past 4yrs. I thought I’d never see the day I’d consider my son to be so far passed most of his challenges and so damn close to most of his goals that I’d stop, look at where he is at & all the progress made & feel like its okay to finally breath. I never thought Id see the day before I was prepared, neither did I think that preparing myself was something I ought to to. A long time ago, when I abandoned myself to become a “mother-warrior on a mission”, I had NO CLUE how far away from myself the journey would take ME! My tunnel vision kept my focus on my son’s recovery and all that it entails. Some would call it a focus to a fault bc of how so many other areas of my life were neglected. My top priority was healing my son & getting him to reach the potential I knew he had. Somewhere along the way, early on, I defined recovery. I decided that I would consider my son recovered when:
    a) communication was no longer a struggle. b) everyday life for him as well as our family was “easy” again. c) I’d have enough “after” pictures to make an inspirational recovery video consisting of 3phases-before,during,after. (bc recovery stories & videos of others got me thru it)
    Well. We did it. And this year’s Christmas pictures is what opened my eyes to make me realize it. I started writing about it. But then I stopped to get started on his video. It’s a work in progress and I learned that it’s something I need to do. For myself, to bring the healing and closure I need to allow myself to move onto the “finding myself again phase”. And would u believe as amazing as it feels to finally get to this point and as proud as I am of all my son has been thru, I am having a hard time dealing with this transition. So that is what this post made me think about. Here’s to everyone finding themselves! As far as the football talk-sorry, I have no clue what u r talking about. That last paragraph was like reading a foreign language-it might as well have been Greek! lol

  5. Libby says:

    Thank you for this! My friend teases me about how when she asks me how i am, i will answer with how my son is doing. For a long time i thought i didn’t have a right to expend any energy for my own well being, that it was selfish. So, 10 years later, i am now exhausted and a little lost. Time to hit the reset button. 🙂 I am grateful for this site, and wish you all the best.

  6. Gilded Thinker says:

    Oh, Saint, you got inside my head. I have thought about this so much. I do remember life before caregiving, but figuring out how to balance it is another story.
    Last year, I caught a glimpse of the person that hides inside. I was on a Chicago hotel rooftop with some of the best people in the world.
    I accept your challenge. I will find the balance of mom and individual.

  7. Jennifer Jespersen says:

    XOXOXO your words echo my reality perfectly 🙂 <3 <3

  8. Ousa says:

    That was me almost a year ago. I’m still trying to figure out who I am, but I’m getting there. I don’t want to look back 7 years, and wonder what the hell happened to me ever again.

  9. Michele says:

    I think this happens to typical Moms too 🙂 I recently started dating and it really drove home the fact that I lead a pretty “boring” life to an outsider. Trying to find time and money to do the things to keep me being me is scarce. I once went to a new therapist and unloaded for an hour about all the things that were wrong with me and how horrible and imperfect a Mom and a person I was. The therapist said he was going to leave the room and come back in a few minutes with a treatment plan and wanted to know how committed I would be to follow it. Oh, 100% of course. So he comes back and says that he wanted me to take 20 minutes every other day to do something for myself. I could not believe that is what he came up with. I never did it, I thought he was insane and never went back. Now I am trying to do it. Good luck! I look forward to following your progress 🙂

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