Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Real SuperMums

You hear the term “Super Mum” bandied about a lot these days, don’t you? To describe some celebrity that manages to combine a career and multiple helpers plus a nanny to raise her kids; a soccer Mum who manages her kids, her charity lunches and her hairdressing appointments, all while swallowing fistfuls of her kids Ritalin so she can knock out costumes for the school play at 3am.

It’s certainly become a common phrase, and way too over used in my humble little opinion. Except for a certain group; Mums of special needs kids.

I’m not saying they are the only Mums out there deserving of a ‘super’ title, but almost to a tee, each Special Needs Mum deserves not only a title, but a crown and a kingdom to go with it.

I almost decided not to post on this subject, fraught as it is with touchy subjects, and as un-qualified as I am to write about special needs kids, with my one healthy and ‘normal’ child. Within my family are three special needs kids (well, one is an adult), one of whom a cousin I am close to. We’ll call this particular 11 year old girl Jewel.

Jewel is a gorgeous young girl, pretty and blonde, with a sunny and joyful personality. She loves music and dancing. Her exact diagnosis is a bit of a mystery, even to the experts it seems sometimes, but she falls within the Autism Spectrum. She also has speech delay issues and muscle tone problems, and has previously been diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder. What all this means, in simple terms, is Jewel sometimes has trouble modifying her behaviour to appropriate levels, and has trouble communicating with people. Her family all understand her well, but most strangers have a hard time understanding her speech.

I have watched her mother, an Aunt I am so close to I sometimes think of like a big sister, see her newborn baby placed in a medieval-looking cast for her ‘clicky hips’, then go from initially having some concerns about her baby’s development to the eventual diagnosis. I have watched on as she dealt with the new reality of her daughter’s life, re-assessing her hopes and goals for her. And I have been always impressed with the grace, unwavering love, patience and yes, even humour she has faced this with.

Now I know compared to some others, Jewel’s condition is relatively lucky. She is able-bodied, reasonably coherent and able to express love for her family and friends, but I don’t think disabilities are as easily quantified as that. Your hopes and dreams for your child have still been drastically altered, your reality changed forever. Heartbreak is heartbreak.

Through Jewel, I have met some of her friends, all with different levels of physical and mental impairment. And meeting the Mums, I am struck that, with all their different personalities, they all possess a certain something; a flinty strength of character, not easily defined, but certainly courageous, hopeful and steeped in love. And what’s more Super than that?

In writing this, I am aware that I have only talked about Mums. Mainly because it’s the Mums I have met, and as a woman I tend to relate more to other women, but the Dads I have met are no less impressive. In the case of Jewel’s family, she has an amazing Dad, patient, loving and encouraging. She also has a pretty outstanding older brother, who has always been a great kid, but has perhaps a bit more compassion, maturity and empathy for the situations of others than the average 14 year old.



  1. What a beautiful tribute to such deserving mums! They are so very often left out of the spotlight when what they deserve most is to be lifted up and showered with love and adoration themselves. They are truly a special SuperMum force!

    Thank you for writing this post in your most elegant manner. Beautiful!

    (ps: I just love saying Mum...our Americanized version just seems so plain and boring...makes me feel more old world to don an accent. Even in writing :O)

  2. My adopted brother is special needs. He is 7 now, and other than being able to smile, he's very much like an infant. Although, my Step-"Mum" is far from being my favorite person, I admire her for being able to show such strength. It changes something in a mother to watch a child struggle with their disadvantages. It's definitely a super power these mothers obtain. But, don't tell anyone I said something half way nice about her. I'd loose my advantage. ;)

    I had a really good internet friend that lived in Queensland, that I talked to daily for several years. About once a month, we would talk on the phone.
    I remember the first time he said, "Mum." I said, "WTF does that mean?" "You mean, Mum, like the flower?" lol It's so freakin cute!

  3. Couldn't agree more. These real super-mums do an amazing job, not that they have a choice about it, they do it with that incredible unconditional love that comes with all children. I take my hat off to them every time, as I do single mums, they do it tough too.

    I agree the term super-mum is bandied about too often, as is the word hero, often used to describe sports stars. Real heros are people like your aunt.

  4. A beautiful post. I have a son on the AS (though not as severe as so many others) and this post is touching.

    It's hard, especially when they're little and frustrated and can't communicate what they want. You feel like every person is looking at you wondering why you can't just 'discipline' (read either smack or drug) your child.

    Posts like this are honestly heartwarming.


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