Journey of Joy: The short version

I’ve lived in New England my whole life, having spent my first 18 years in Northern Vermont, and the subsequent twenty-odd since in Southern and Central Maine. I am the only daughter of parents who were also blessed with three boys. My father has worked for IBM for the past 36 years, and my mother has been a nurse her whole adult life.

Joy Hayes

Joy Hayes

I wasn’t much of a ‘girly girl’ growing up. However, I did not enjoy my place at the bottom of the pig pile during wrestling matches. So I stopped rough-housing with the boys, and acquired a special designation and preferential treatment as the only girl. I was the only person with her own room, and new clothes. I also was spared from having to do the more physically challenging chores because of my sex. This, in my young mind, was sexism at its peak. My role as the sister was the peacemaker and second mother. My younger brothers still do what I tell them,even though they are long since grown and tower over me.

When my parents went their separate ways, I became my mother’s parenting partner for “the boys.” Just 12 years old myself, I was in charge of the house after school and on vacations. I had always been precocious and responsible, so it must have seemed natural for me to take on this role.

I likely developed my sense of humor at this time, having to deal with situations that would make an adult wonder what they should do. Like the time an angry stranger banged on my front door, demanding to know if I was the mother of the 4 year old who was throwing rocks at passing cars. I denied being his mother, but had to admit he was my charge, and apologized to the man who shouldn’t have been driving anyway, if he couldn’t tell a 12 year old girl from a “mother.”

One brother always seemed to be getting into trouble. He ended up with several different diagnoses, before one stuck, and he was helped with medication. His school years were terrible, with my mother constantly getting calls at work about his latest antics. Looking back, I see how this must have been training for the brood I was going to have myself one day.

By the time I was 16, my brothers needed less supervision, so I decided to try my hand at adolescence. I spent several years hating the world, sitting in the woods, being depressed and writing in my journal about what a horrible life I had. Not to mention the loser boyfriends and dangerous situations I put myself into, as an attempt to “get back” at my parents for ruining my life by getting a divorce and moving me away from my friends.

Several years ago, I found some journals from that time. After reading them, I called my mother and asked “Why did you let me live?”

She laughed and replied “I knew you would come around eventually.”

By the time I met my future husband at the University of Southern Maine, I had “come around.” I was blessed to reconcile with my father, and enjoyed relationships with my family, including step-parents and various siblings acquired during my parents’ remarriages. I had reconnected with my childhood faith, and found a solid foundation for my life. Marriage and family gave me the feeling of security that I had missed for so many years, and I was committed to being the best wife and mother possible.

Then my world was rocked again, and again, and again. All of my children were “normal” at birth, but normalcy was not to be my path. It started with seizures, and then there were allergies, skin problems, missed developmental milestones, disturbing behavior, and learning disabilities. The reports from teachers, neurologists, cardiologists, behavioral pediatricians and social workers were disheartening. Where had I gone wrong?

This blog tells the rest of the story, and it gets better, I promise.

I want to remind my readers to savor life in all its forms. It is messy and confusing, but also beautiful and enlightening. I acknowledge my own inability to fix it all, and welcome the chance to bless and encourage others on their journeys as I stumble along my own way.

I am thankful for all the challenges I have experienced up to this point, and I know there will be more. Using my “homespun” sense of humor, I hope to give a message of joy in the midst of hard times, laughter in the face of uncertainty, and peace in the eye of the storm. I have learned to be patient, strong, faithful and to laugh at life, instead of cry. That way, I won’t mess up my mascara.

Joy Hayes

About Joy Hayes

I am a married full-time mother of three children, 12-18 years old. Each of my kids has a learning/developmental disability or autism. I have a "side-ways" sense of humor, which comes from a lifetime of caring for special people. I love to learn and live to read and write, therefore I am the best student I have had the pleasure to work with.