[Editor's note: This month new blogger Vickie L. Nettles joins the IND Fam to share her journey of motherhood. With a passion for her own family and a mission to help those facing a diagnosis of autism within their homes, the mother of three who has been married for nearly three decades and Autism Society of Acadiana employee has a heart that doesn't quit and a vision to make a difference in the lives of others.]
In thinking ahead to a few upcoming BIG events for this year — my youngest child turns 21 in April; my middle daughter will graduate from college in May; and my oldest child will be 29 also in May (yikes!) — I started thinking about what it means to be their mom and how much I love all three of my children in varying ways and on different levels. When my sisters and I were much younger, at times we would ask our mother, "Which one do you love more?" Mom always said "I love you all … in different ways". I accepted that statement as fact as a child (well, because Mom said so), but of course I did not really understand it until I had children of my own.
When Richard, our oldest was born, my husband and I were young parents, enjoying all of the "firsts" that come with having a child together. I can think back to the first day of: Mom's Day Out, then preschool and kindergarten. There were numerous school award programs; parent-teacher conferences; baseball and football games; and I just knew I was the proudest mom there for each event and every occasion. Richard is all grown now, and often helps care for his younger sister so I can work, go out with friends, or have a nice quiet dinner with my husband, Charlie.
Our son is intelligent, witty, and enjoys cooking for his family and friends. It is a secret thrill for me to hear him and his dad "talk sports" or express their opinions very vocally while watching games on TV together. Richard is responsible, logical, thoughtful, and loyal to those who are fortunate to be within his circle of friends. Yes, I am so very proud of the man he has become. He is my firstborn; he has a very special place in my heart, set aside just for him — always.
When our second child Laura was born, we were happy to welcome a girl into our family. She has been a great joy since day one. Laura is “a laugh a minute”; she makes my heart feel lighter whenever she is around. Yet she is also practical, responsible, and always puts so much thought into finding the perfect gifts for family and friends. She is making her way in the world and it is truly gratifying to see her take risks and make decisions as an adult. She has found a vocation which is meaningful and one which she takes very seriously. She will make a difference in the lives of many as a dietician. I am very proud of her and so extremely grateful that she is our daughter. She is the sunshine in and of my life.
Our youngest child, Catherine, was determined to make her presence known and heard from the day she was born. She screamed incessantly and inconsolably in the baby nursery and then afterward for three solid months. When that terrible nightmarish period of colic ended, our struggle to really connect with our daughter began. There were brief glimmers of hope in the early years, however, and I clung to those for dear life. From learning to give and accept hugs, then learning to say "I love you" and finally learning to express herself through written communication, I have seen my daughter with autism grow, develop, and surpass so many expectations. It has been a journey which has been so very overwhelming and frustrating at times and yet so it has also been a wonderfully rewarding experience being her parents. With Catherine, we learned to appreciate "baby steps" of progress and rejoice in the seemly gigantic leaps toward improvement. There is a close special bond between us — she and I — which cannot be understood, only felt with the heart.
They say we should not live through our children or let them define us, and I do believe we parents should follow that advice. However, my children have added so much to my life and in doing so changed the person I once was into someone else entirely. I feel I am a much better person now because I am so very lucky and blessed to be a wife and mother above all else.
I want to thank each of my children for what they have given and brought to my life. You are all so very amazing and unique. I am grateful to have been your mom through these years, to watch you grow and develop your skills and strengths, and I look forward to all that is yet to come for you in the future.