The World Mercury Project team, as well as several members from Health Choice, did quite a bit of advocating in The District last week. Hoping to be at a few of the events, I began to make preparations to join the effort. Quickly glancing at our family calendar, I checked to make sure I wouldn’t have any conflicts. Nothing was pressing. With the kids in school and with Ronan’s team available to be work with him in my absence, I could go. I was excited. It had been awhile since I’d gone to D.C.
The closer it got to the date, though, the less likely it was going to work out for me to be there. I wanted to be with my friends and with the groups fighting for children like mine, but new family commitments that I could not afford to miss cropped up. Brainstorming how to work things out, I tried to rearrange a few appointments. No luck. Unless I could bi-locate, it was not looking good for me to be in D.C. I had to make a decision. Was where I wanted to be more important than where I needed to be? I knew the answer, but I stayed hopeful that something in our schedule would give. It didn’t. I sent regrets rather than confirm a reservation.
Over the course of the few days that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert DeNiro were making headlines, I popped in on FaceBook and other social media outlets when I could. Friends were checking in and sharing details of what they were doing and with whom they were speaking. Posting pictures of the exciting events, I lived vicariously through their updates.
Scrolling through the newsfeed in the waiting room at the eye clinic on Wednesday afternoon, my youngest said to me, “Mommy, who are those people in the pictures?”
I replied, “Oh, those are friends of mine. They’re in Washington, D.C. right now doing some really neat things.”
“In D.C.? Weren’t you supposed to be there?” she asked.
“Yep. I was,” I said as we scrolled through a few more pictures.
“But you’re here…” she started.
“I am here,” I smile, “I get to be with you today instead. Your new glasses were ready today, and I wouldn’t want to miss that,” I told her.
“I wouldn’t want you to miss it either,” she smiled back.
“I don’t want to be anywhere else but right here with you,” she added.
“I’m so glad I’m here, honey,” I told her.
And I was.
Earlier in the week when I realized I couldn’t get to where all the advocacy action was, I’ll admit that I was disappointed. No matter how many times I tried to work it out – be The Advocate or be The Mom, I just could not figure out how to do it all. In choosing to stay home, I missed out on meeting up with some pretty neat people. I missed out on some exciting behind-the-scenes planning and networking. I missed out on some history in the making, too. But last week while all that meeting, planning, and networking was going on, I got to do something more fulfilling– I got to be Mama to my babies.
Advocating is important. But I do that already. The kids see me doing that all the time. Every time I talk about, write about, or share a story about autism, about vaccines, about raising a child like Ronan or about raising kids like them, I advocate. I may not be marching on Washington or making speeches from a podium in front of a roomful of Senators, but what I do – and what scores of other parents also do from home – is important.
One night last week during family prayers, my children prayed for Mommy’s friends who were in D.C. They recognized how important it was for them to get to meet up with each other and to go to the big meetings. They understood that sacrifices may have been made for these other moms and dads to be away from their children. I thanked them for their prayers and told them how proud I was of them for thinking about others, especially other kids. I thanked them for their patience, too. When my plans didn’t work out, they offered extra help and gave me extra hugs on the days I had planned to be away from the house.
As I tucked my children in that night, I knew I’d made the right decision to stay home. Getting into bed later that night, I said some prayers – prayers for friends, prayers for those who tirelessly advocate, and prayers for my children. As much as it would’ve been an incredible experience to be in D.C. last week, being home with my family is where I was called to be. I wouldn’t be the mom I am today without my family. They know that I need them as much as they need me.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.