Meet the Real Moms!
When I attended Alt Summit this past March, I was invited to a dinner hosted by Children’s Miracle Network. The dinner was also the premeire of Real Moms, an 11-episode web series featuring moms of kids treated at children’s hospitals, some with rare diseases. They’re regular ‘ol moms with a layer of complexity related to raising kids with medical challenges.
While these women live very different lives in varied pockets of the U.S., they have developed solid friendships based on a common connection: an understanding of the challenges and rewards of raising kids with complex medical issues, some whose outcomes are unknown.
One of the moms I met that night was Kris Coles. Kris’ son, Joseph, was born with a rare bone marrow disorder that leads to Leukemia, and also Mosaic Down Syndrome, a high functioning form. He has gone through quite the medical journey. Kris is very clear that she will always have high expectations for Jojo. If you want a disabled child, treat them like that. If you don’t, treat him like you would any other kid. High expectations for behavior, school, activities, etc. Kris is one the Real Moms featured on the show and she is on the show to talk about the new show and how her and her Real Mom mom tribe want everyone to know that they are just real moms like you and me. Her husband likes to say, they just belong to the most amazing club no one wants to sign up for.
In this episode we discuss the new show, Real Moms, how moms with medically challenged kids have just the same problems, struggles, and joys as any other mom, and how we can help Children’s Miracle Network in their work dedicated to serving families being cared for in their hospitals and making their treatment just a little more comforting.
Some of my friends and I at the premiere of Real Moms at Alt Summit
Heather Unsinger, a divorced mom raising a 10-year-old daughter with progeria (a rare genetic disease that causes premature aging) in rural Ohio
Isabell Bogosian, a “boujee” Beverly Hills mom, working in fashion, with a daughter who has cerebral palsy
Kris Coles, a no-nonsense Florida mom with two super active boys, including one with Down syndrome
Rachel Davenport, a stay-at-home Indiana mom of five, including a pre-teen with a lengthy list of health issues, whose military husband recently was deployed
Amber Ferrell, an upbeat Florida mom determined to provide normalcy for her three kids, one of whom has a rare disease
Each kid featured on the show is an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network and when the moms would get together, they’d joke about being the Real Moms of Children’s Miracle Network. The marketing department connected with them and offered them a show to feature their friendship and life as moms. They’re so used to their kid’s stories being featured so it was a cool opportunity to show their story as the moms of these kiddos.
Their goal with the show is that their normal is an okay normal. It’s not everyone else’s normal, but it’s their normal and they are good and okay with that. They are living their mom life just as other moms are too. No matter what your “normal” is, it’s okay.
So to be honest, I was super nervous to watch the screening for this show. I thought it was going to be super heavy and sad seeing these medically challenged kiddos, but I was SO pleasantly surprised at home real, honest, and FUNNY the show was! I went back to told my husband, Ryan, how funny the show was and he was caught off guard that I described something like this as funny. But you honestly feel like you’re watching a group of moms that you’d totally be friends with going through life. You see the same sibling rivalry, the same back talk, and the same annoying mom life problems we each experience daily. As Kris says, “you won’t see a lot of tears. We don’t have time for that.” I really can’t recommend the show enough!
Talking to Our Kids
One thing I wanted to ask Kris was how to approach this subject with our kids. I feel like a lot of never know what the “right” way to talk to about a child with a medical challenge or a physical disability is supposed to be. No one wants to offend, but I also think we’re making this subject trickier than it needs to be, for both our kids and us as adults. Kris was very clear that kids will learn from parent’s behavior. If you are staring at a child that looks different, they are going to follow that behavior. They don’t want anyone to be scared of their kids. They want to sit down and explain the situation and talk about how they are different or what is going on. It is an opportunity to learn. This is not a poor me, staring situation. This is their child that they love and adore, just like we do with our kids. Treat them like you would anyone else, ask if you would like to, and model that behavior for our kids so they are practice that skill of understanding and acceptance as they get older. The goal? Inclusion always, never division.
Children’s Miracle Network
Children’s hospitals are charities and depend on donations. CMN has 170 hospitals in their network and they fundraise to raise money to fill in the gaps of government help and insurance coverage. CMN pays for little things like flavored gas to put kids down before surgery to incubators and medical tools to make their hospital stay as comfortable, personal and positive as possible.
Costco and Walmart are big supporters of CMN and you can donate there while you’re shopping. Something I didn’t know before talking to Kris was that those donations at your stores goes to the CMN hospital in your local area. So if I were to donate at my Costco, my donation would go to Seattle Children’s Hospital, so I really liked knowing that and knowing where my money is going.
Something else powerful Kris stated was that Children’s Miracle Network doesn’t label the kids. JoJo can be labeled as a cancer patient or with Down Syndrome, but CMN doesn’t label and that is super powerful and meaningful.
Connect with the Real Moms!
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