Beauty in Brokenness

mom and sons
mom and boys

Forgive how cryptic this post seems. I’m still searching for the right words to share some of the more personal details of our journey as a family with you. It feels important that I choose the correct words when I tell our story…

For some parents, advocating for their child comes naturally. Fighting for their best interest is second nature. But it wasn’t for me–as much as I cringe to admit it.

Rooting for them, sure. Loving them. Cheering them on. Encouraging them. Smothering them with kisses. Giving them high fives and proud momma hugs–that was simple and has always felt natural.

But standing up for them and for what my guts told me was best for my child, even when it meant breaking those more popular rules of parenting–that took practice and a few lessons learned the hard way. What others thought, or said, or counseled–I know I let their advice affect the choices I made as a parent. I let myself be swayed or directed based on the opinions of others, the advice of “experts”, the tips from those who were surely more qualified than I was to raise a child.

However, as good as their counsel and expertise often was, they weren’t raising MY children. They didn’t understand my child’s specific, unique needs–my child’s special talents. It took time, but eventually I had to teach myself to trust that Ben and I are the most qualified to know what is best for our boys. I had to experience gut wrenching sadness and worry on behalf of my OWN child before I had the courage to make my OWN rules, before I had the courage to realize that I broke the mold when I made these babies. They weren’t born to fit in a box and I was done trying to squeeze them into one.

It’s okay to fight for your children. To champion for them. To teach them that rules are made to be followed, but sometimes we aren’t born to fit into all the rules. Sometimes the best decisions we can make for our children are the very decisions we know that no one else will agree with or support. Let us remember this the next time we are tempted to judge a fellow momma who thoughtfully made a choice for her child that we don’t understand. I know I’ve been guilty of passing such judgment before.

There have been more moments than I can count throughout my parenting journey where I’ve felt like I’m swimming in a sea of failure, and I can’t see a shoreline in the distance. But then I catch my breath and pull my head above the water: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, I remind myself. I look at other parents and sometimes I see them living the life I imagined I would have when I had children. Sometimes, on a really bad day, I resent that things don’t run as smoothly as I had always imagined they would.

And that’s my ugly truth.

But there’s a beautiful truth too. A truth that happens on the good days. On the good days, I feel nothing but gratitude for this privilege that is motherhood. On these days I recognize that my weaknesses and stumbles and trials are making me so much more awesome–so much more connected–more open-minded–more compassionate. And on these good days, I remember that I like this version of myself a whole lot better than the old Ashley. This me is living with purpose–and their names are Wesley and Sawyer. Lucky for me there are many more good days than bad.

Sure it’s not always how we imagined our fairy tale would play out back when we were young and naive and idealistic. Sure it’s not picture perfect. Sure we’re a bit broken. But it’s our broken. And the healing has made us stronger–has made us beautiful even. Beauty in brokenness–that’s what my dear friend always reminds me–beauty in brokenness.

And this journey of parenthood…that’s exactly what it is: beautifully broken.



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  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you. These words mean so much to me, I am glad you wrote them so carefully and truthfully.

    • Reply
      June 1, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      I’ve followed you for awhile on Instagram and finally peeked at your blog. I’d love to connect with you more- my 4 year old is in the process of getting tested for autism and I’ve been feeling so many emotions. I’ve gone from grieving what he won’t get to have, to feeling more strength than I knew I had, and back and forth. My second child is completely opposite from his brother. Your blog posts about Sawyer being an advocate for Wesley, that is exactly what I hope for my boys. I’ve seriously been in tears as I’ve read all of your posts about autism. My mother hood journey has been beautifully broken.
      I also want to extend my greatest condolences to your family right now, I’ve cried this week for your loss. I know this doesn’t mean much coming from a stranger, but you’ve been on my mind a whole lot lately.

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Ashley, thank you so much for writing this. I also have 2 children that don’t fit into mold, and I also agree that I have struggled with parenting them because of what others may think of my decisions … even though my husband and I feel as though we know what is best for them and our family. I am not sure if you have ever shared specific details, but I believe that your Wesley and my Hope may be very similar. We don’t know for sure, because she is only 2 years old, but it appears as if Hope struggles with significant anxiety. Therefore, we need to parent her differently, and at times, it may appear as if we are just “being easy” on her. My husband and I have had countless discussions about what is best for her, and we are still navigating it. However, I have not yet come to the place where “I don’t care what others think” and just do what is best for her without worrying about anyone else. I also worry way too much about that … most likely because I have a counseling degree and my husband is a special ed teacher. I have certainly learned that I have “judged” way too many parents in the past for their decisions, without knowing the reasons behind them. Now, I stop myself from thinking they are wrong and remember that there may be a completely loving reason behind their choices … not to mention, it is none of my business! Thanks again!

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    I know that I too have made decisions based on other people’s opinions and then I beat myself up for it… Why did I let that happen? This is MY baby, not theirs…. Those are usually the thoughts that cross my mind for days after. I applaud you for being so honest because it is so hard. You’re doing great.

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Beautiful post!

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    You are doing a great job. And this is definitely a post I can relate to! It’s always so easy to judge, until you are the one being judged. I have had to be in the same position as you since my son was in preschool. He just started 6th grade, and let me tell you, the battle doesn’t get easier – but you get stronger. I was always one who was hesitant to start the conversation with teachers, etc. because I didn’t want the judgement. Now, I have learned to be open and honest right off the bat. Yes, it hurts to admit his troubled spots out loud, but when you add in all the positives about your child and special talents, it stings a little less. In fact, you will walk away feeling proud. I have always imagined a perfect little life with perfect little angels, and sometimes yes, it is. But my life isn’t always perfect and my angels aren’t always perfect and you know what, that’s ok. I fully believe in the saying “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”. And that is us, as mothers, as parents. And being consistent and letting go of my unreachable expectations has allowed me to see the beauty that is in front of me. Just remember, he needs you to advocate for him. Others will say they will, but only you can make sure it gets heard. Hang in there, you are an awesome mom!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    August 22, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    I love this ” They weren’t born to fit in a box and I was done trying to squeeze them into one.” So many parents want their kids in that box…I learned this lesson early on and now speak openly to anyone when they question why my kids don’t fit the ‘mold’. My kids are now older (14 and 18) and I seriously am very lucky to have them in my life. They teach me more and more everyday…thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I can so relate to this. And as weird as this might sound, a good “aha!” mommy moment for me was watching the movie “the odd life of Timothy Green.” I had been so aware of failing the “your child shoulds….” that I had overlooked how wonderful and unique my children are in their own beautifully quirky way. If you haven’t seen it I totally recommend it. And I think you are a wonderful mom doing a wonderful job in this crazy old thing called parenthood. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    I can totally relate! I have a 13 almost 14 year old special boy. When I look back over these almost 14 years, I am proud of how far I have come. In the beginning I realize I was trying to “fix him” but was also going through the grief cycle. But when I finally accepted who and how he is, what an amazing weight was lifted off of my shoulder. Yet, I am still someone who struggles to be his advocate, I never liked being in the spot light, but he puts me there. Especially as he has gotten bigger and louder. He is non verbal, but he is big and loud and we stand out. I still have my hard days, and envy how easy it is for other families, but those days do not come around as often as they used to. Last weekend, we had our ward campout, we made the decision to leave him with my mother in law where he would be happy and have all of his beloved electronics. I kept having these moments, like just going into the gas station, where I had the thought of whether I was going to stay in the car with him or we would attempt to take him in. And then realized he wasn’t with us, and how easy breezy it was to just go in. I am constantly having to plan in my mind each place we go, about each little detail. It can be overwhelming but I just try to take it day by day. He has changed me, made me less judgmental(yes I said less, I am human after all). He has never said a word, but he speaks to my soul, and he fills my heart with happiness. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Sometimes the things we can’t change, end of changing us, and for that I am grateful. There is beauty in brokenness. I get a lot pity looks, but it is me who pities them. Because they missed out on a chance to get to know an amazing person, if only they would have taken the chance. You are doing great momma, keep on keeping on!!

  • Reply
    August 23, 2014 at 12:01 am

    I so understand and appreciate this post. Beautiful. Though I wish I knew the answers and best decisions in my own situation…still seeking, praying, rebounding and learning through trial and error.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Beautifully written. I pray for you to find you own words and for you to continue to be a warrior for your children.

    Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Ashley, I hope you realize that EVERY honest mother feels this way. Some people make it look easy on the outside but we all struggle on the inside, you just show such humility with being honest about all of this. Thos boys are so lucky to call you “mama”.

    • Reply
      August 23, 2014 at 5:41 am

      This is exactly what I was thinking, and struggling to put into words! Thank you for doing it for me, Kylee!

  • Reply
    August 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Beautiful honesty. I so enjoyed this. I appreciate your authenticity. It sounds like you are an amazing mother. I always tell myself that mothering my children is more for my own learning than it is for my children’s.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2014 at 1:22 am

    You are a great Mom! Those boys are lucky to have you. Love ya friend.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2014 at 2:23 am

    I feel like so many of your posts are conversation starters which (I feel) is a major component of writing. I have so much to say, add, share…I will leave that for my journal. Thanks for giving me a topic for today’s writing.

  • Reply
    Mickie Lara
    August 23, 2014 at 2:51 am

    I could say so much because I too have a son that doesn’t fit the mold whatever that mold may be. And, through it all, I couldn’t love him more. But, instead I am just going to say that I empathize, relate to and love everything you said here. It is perfect and I never tire of learning that there are other moms out there on a similar journey. We need that on the days when we feel like we have to be the only ones who have done this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    libby stolper
    August 23, 2014 at 4:34 am

    I know you through my sister, Amy Johnston. But I have groen to feel connected to you through your blog. I jave very similar struggles. I have a 17y/o that I have homeschooled from 5th grade. I never wanted to…but after constantly ignoring what the spirit was telling me and listening to all the people who said “he’ll catch up” or “I dont see any problems” ….. I finally said enough. And made my own way. It has been BEYOND hard. Now I have a 7 y/o with even more “issues” and I thank heavanly father everyday for giving me Noah first. So I am equipped to do whatever possible to help my little Van. Remember always that only YOU can make the best decision for your kids. Hang in there!

  • Reply
    Danielle S
    August 23, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Bravo and kudos! Always do what you feel is best for your family. It can be a tough road no matter what decision is being made.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2014 at 7:15 am

    My heart cries for you. I am a step mom to a guy who is 54 and has bi-polar and has problems each day. We haven’t been on a vacation for 5 years and my nerves are at a breaking point. We have been trying to find a place to stay while we take a trip to Florida to see his other two children plus 5 grandchildren. His mom doesn’t want him there in Florida. The last time we left him alone he took everything he could to sell for drugs. I pray each night for some way to solve this problem and my husband looks 10 years older and loseing weight right and left. So you see we all have our battles and I wish you the best. You are a great mom and I wish I had my stepson when he was younger and maybe things wouls better. Sorry to be so long winded but this all came rolling out. Love you blog. I don’t have anyone to talk to so I guess I just unloaded. I hope you and your husband gets away every now and then just to recharge.

    God Bless

  • Reply
    Lauren Guess
    August 25, 2014 at 2:13 am

    I loved this post because it reminds me of a lot of the feelings I had when deciding whether or not to send my son to KG this year. He was born just 6 weeks from the cut off so he is technically old enough to go. We decided to wait a year to send him despite some very harsh criticism from family and friends. Academically, he is there but socially/emotionally he needs more time. Do what you think is best for your kids.. nobody knows them better than you.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2014 at 1:22 am

    I’m Catholic, and my priest always emphasizes the beauty in brokenness.. God loves us just as we are, as broken as we are. You are a great example of that.

  • Reply
    Kristen Harris
    August 31, 2014 at 10:43 am

    I love this so much!!

  • Reply
    Brooke White
    September 4, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Love the post dear friend. You’re a wonderful mother, friend and human being.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2020 at 1:12 pm

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