The Swing
It Takes a Special Mother
                                                               by Erma Bombeck

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit.

This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

"Armstrong, Beth; son. Patron saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity." 

"Forrest, Marjorie; daughter. Patron saint, Cecelia."

 "Rutledge, Carrie; twins. Patron saint, Matthew."

 Finally He passes a name to an angel and smiles, "Give her a handicapped child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one God? She's so happy."

 "Exactly," smiles God, "Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel."

 "But has she patience?" asks the angel.

  "I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it."

"I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that  is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has her own world. She has to make her live in her world and that's not going to be easy."

 "But, Lord, I don't think she even believes in you." God smiles, "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect - she has just enough selfishness." The angel gasps - "selfishness? is that a virtue?"

 God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a 'spoken word'. She will not consider a 'step' ordinary. When her child says 'Momma' for the first time, she will be present at a miracle, and will know it!"

 "I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty, prejudice....and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she is here by My side".

 "And what about her Patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air.

  God smiles, "A mirror will suffice."


My original intent was to write  the content of this page myself ...  until I remembered this wonderful Bombeck article. There is no way I could possibly have written anything as poignant  and eloquent and this subject most assuredly is deserving of both.

Too often we simply assume that having a special child is somehow an unlucky twist of fate and  don't stop to remember that life seldom  gives us a task or problem with which we don't have the strength to cope if we only dig deeply into our inner selves.  Perhaps it is meant to teach us how to truly love. 

Caring for the special child is a task which will require an inordinate degree of patience, understanding and compassion. Often  a mother finds she is so involved with such a child that she doesn't have the time to lavish the same attention on the child who is more self sufficient. When this occurs  the child more able to fend for themselves may well feel left out. It doesn't have to be this way if they feel they are contributing to helping Mommy and in doing so forging bonds with the special child which will last a lifetime.

 Face it, Mommy and Daddy  can use all the help they can get and the capacity for compassion and caring taught will serve the siblings well throughout their lives. Perhaps even assure a continuation of the care the special child needs if the time arrives when Mommy and Daddy are no longer able to  provide that care in years to come.

 Parents facing such a situation  often worry that no one will be there to care for their special angel once they are gone. That worry can be a shadow they carry with them always. Perhaps it is one of the most difficult aspects of loving a special child. One that can so often be avoided if the other children in the family are allowed to really know the special child as Mommy and Daddy do. In coming to really know them they can not help but love them with a love which is one of the most significant they will experience in their lifetime.

 In allowing them to share in this responsibility, while always remembering that they too have their own lives to live, you will do them an enormous favour. And you will make your own task so much easier as well. Do yourself the favour of sharing the special child with others who will benefit from the love the special child is only too willing to share with them.

"Special children are just angels in disguise.
Sent to fill our hearts with joy and to brighten up our lives."


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MIDI - "Someone to Watch Over Me" courtesy of Les Gorven

Artwork © Carolyn Blish 

March 18th 2005