A Special Day for Special Aunties
Savvy Auntie's Day is July 26th. It is a day when “aunthood” should be honored and celebrated, but sometimes the aunties most worthy of the honor have the most difficulty giving way to the celebration. I’m speaking about the Special Needs Savvy Aunties.
My first few years as a special needs godmommy were very rough. I was emotionally paralyzed and was plagued by irrational guilt in relation to my godson’s situation. At some point, though, I came to realize that existing in this manner was no way to go through life. There were some things that I had to come to terms with if I was to sustain my own mental health.
Life Is Not Perfect
On some level, I always knew this. However, when my godson was diagnosed with a myriad of debilitating conditions, I felt blindsided by the upheaval that followed. What I witnessed nearly crippled me. I seemed unable to comprehend it. Horrifying situations like this were only supposed to happen in the movies. When a tragedy of this proportion actually touched people I cared about, it shook my worldview to its core.
In order for me to function, I had to accept the reality that life is not perfect. There is intense pain along with great joy. Side-by-side, the two are what compose a full life, and beauty can be found in embracing both.
I Cannot Make Life Perfect
I have always been one to take in stray animals, give money to worthy causes and serve others before myself. Therefore, my natural instinct was to throw myself on the altar of my godson’s cause. His needs were so vast. His mother’s needs were almost as equally extensive. I was ready to sacrifice my life to redeem their situation.
I read books to inform myself about my godson’s conditions. I did housework to relieve my friend of some duties. I even went to City Hall and anonymously paid utility bills to lessen the burden of surmounting debt. It was always maddening, though, to step back afterward and acknowledge that it wasn’t enough.
I was on the fast track to burn-out. I knew that when I arrived there, I would be useless to all. As a result, it became necessary for me to see that I could not make life perfect. I was there to be a helper—not a savior—and there was a big difference.
Sometimes My Position Is A Thankless One
When my friend needed help, I was sometimes requested to the exclusion of everyone else. This was because, other than her spouse, I was most familiar with their situation, their children and their routine. Sometimes, though, the request was too big for me to manage alone. In those instances, I would suggest that I share the responsibility with other friends, or I would decline the request. This elicited frustration and anger from my friend. She didn’t want the help of others who were not accustomed to her children’s needs. She wanted my help, and she felt that there was no excuse for me adjusting her plan.
My initial reaction to her was usually irritation. More than any other, I had given the most emotionally, mentally, and physically to her situation. It injured my soul to see her ingratitude in those moments, and I impulsively wanted to deny her further help.
I had to recognize, though, that she was under a great amount of stress every day. It was a degree of pressure that I might never fully grasp because I hadn’t walked in her shoes. For this reason alone, I needed to cut her some slack in her ungraceful moments and simply “suck it up” when she didn’t appreciate the things I did for her and my godson.
My Life Is Separate, And I Need To Live It
For a long time, I was crushed under the weight of heavy guilt. My good friend, my precious godson and their family lived with tragic circumstances while my own family lived a life that was comparatively care-free. It was not fair. Why did they suffer so much, and why did I suffer so little? I felt personally responsible for the inequity presented. I encountered shame during happy moments because my loved ones faced so much sorrow. My conscious was uneasy when I indulged in a frivolous pleasure because their pains held great depth.
However, in time I had to realize that their life was not my life. Also, I needed to acknowledge it was fine for me to take pleasure in the one I’d been given. This did not mean that I loved them less. This did not mean that I helped them less. It simply meant that I was not to blame for what happened to them. More importantly, it meant that I was allowed to take enjoy the aspects of my life that were separate from their circumstances.
My hope is that all Special Needs Savvy Aunties can find freedom in these truths. Don’t allow yourself to be robbed by a deprecating mindset any longer. Your designated day of honor is fast approaching on July 26th. I hope that you will take hold of it, indulge in it and make it memorable. You have earned it.