RRP: Being a mother to a special needs child, how have you embraced it, and what has it taught you?
Relena: My daughter’s disability has taught me that I have no control over certain things and that the only thing I can do is learn to accept things the way they are and lean on God. I used to be so angry with God. When it was time for her to have surgery, especially at six months, my heart hurt to the point that I could not take it. I could not believe that this was my life, and I had to accept it. I was tired of explaining to others why her arm was so different. Until one day, I realized that my daughter felt what I felt. She paid attention to me, and she was watching my every move. I tell people who ask me how I made it through… that she saved me. She’s so joyful. I’m such an impatient person. But there are so many things I go through that force me to slow down with her. I am a lot stronger than I thought I was, and every day, I’m grateful knowing that God chose me to be Nalani’s mother.
RRP: As a new mom of a three-year-old and expecting your second child, what advice would you give new moms who are trying to navigate the process of raising newborns and toddlers?
Relena: I would have to say, give yourself grace. Forgive yourself. There is no perfect way or wrong way to raise your child. God picked you for your child for a reason, and as you live through the journey of caring and loving them, your instinct to want the best for them is within you. It’s okay to want the best for your children and not be so hard on yourself.
RRP: Raising your child as a toddler are precious years. At such a tender age, what values are you instilling in Nalani now that she understands?
Relena: Being honest is huge with me. I think I’ve done so well with this that my toddler pretty much tells on herself now with everything. I’ll ask, “Why is my candy missing off of the kitchen counter?” And she’s confident with answering back, “I ate it.” It’s both a blessing and a curse. It also helps with open communication because they go hand in hand.
RRP: Being a working mom, you had to find child care. Whether entrusting your child with a family member, daycare center, or learning center, how did you overcome the fear and find the ability to trust your child in the hands of caretakers?
Relena: Before her nerve grafting surgery, my daughter could not be held or picked up like a normal baby. I spent extra time with my mother, showing her what she could and could not do. She became the only person I trusted at the time. Regardless of my daughter’s disability, I think as a parent, you never completely overcome that fear and always trust. Rather, it’s something you end up having to do. I know my daughter will eventually have to attend school. She can’t stay in this bubble forever.
RRP: Children all have different temperaments. But in comparison to raising your three-year-old, is there anything you would do differently with expecting your second child?
Relena: I would not do anything differently in terms of raising my daughter. I think parenting is a go-with-the-flow thing, and then everything that your parents instilled in you kicks in when it needs to without you realizing it. However, I am not a go-with-the-flow person. I am a planner. Unfortunately, you can’t always plan with a toddler. I try to remember to give myself grace and remind myself that I’m doing a great job. I keep that in the front of my mind all the time.
RRP: How does it make you feel, as a mom, knowing that you will impact the lives of your children and shape them into adults while preparing them for the real world?
Relena: As a parent, you know this, but it still doesn’t hit you the way you think it would. No one can ever be too prepared. You hope that your love overshadows everything. Having a three-year-old makes me feel like I have time. My daughter is still learning things, and if she doesn’t understand now, I know that she will eventually understand as she gets older. All you can do is try your best. You know that if you don’t teach them, the world is bound to teach your children. I try to continue to have an open relationship with my daughter so that one day what I’ve taught her stays with her forever, and she can say that she noticed I did the best I could… and she enjoyed having a mother like me.
Relena Ruffin lives in Montgomery, AL. She and husband Terrance celebrated three months of marriage on August 5th. The couple has a three-year-old daughter, Nalani, and are expecting their second child soon. Discover Relena’s music at www.relena-rochelle.com.