There’s no love comparable to the bond between mother and son, much like the relationship between author Holly Schroeder and her son, Manny, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Manny is unable to speak, so Holly gave him a voice through her most recent literary endeavor — a book she wrote and published in his honor.
Schroeder spoke with rolling out to share details about the concept of the story and give advice to other women caring for children with special needs.
Check out what she had to say below.
What are the challenges of being a mother with a child who has special needs?
The challenges of being a mother of a child with special needs are broad in spectrum. It is difficult not to compare your children to others, especially as they are supposed to be hitting milestones like rolling over, talking, walking. … The older he gets, the more obvious it becomes for others to see his disability. I face the public every day with my son and keep my chin up and stand tall, despite the staring and rude comments. I also find having a social life and free time is not as easy as it used to be when I only had “normal” or “healthy” children. But I do know how far I have come because I have never been so humble or thankful for the little things in life, especially a smile.
Where do you find the strength to face each day?
I find the strength to face [each day when I look down and see my seven children looking up to me, watching my next more. Every action is a choice, and so is every reaction. The only disability in life is a bad attitude.
What spiritual messages do you have for mothers who are new to this experience?
I never once blamed God for my son being born with total brain damage, but I also never thanked him. What I find I thank God for every day is that, because of my son, I found my way back to God, where before I took him for granted. I never truly understood the power of prayer and belief until my son was born.
What are three affirmations you repeat to yourself each day?
Three affirmations I call upon every day: I will choose faith over fear. I will remind myself and my children to say three "I am” statements each morning encouraging empowerment. When the sun sets each night I must be reminded that it is time to reflect, and no matter what happened that day, I know it was freaking awesome.
What are three good to know facts about you?
In high school, I made a list of 10 things I wanted to accomplish during adulthood – a bucket list, I guess you could call it. I do not remember them all, but I do recall a few: get married, have kids, go skydiving, and publish a book. I have accomplished all of those things. Seeing is believing. I am a huge believer in writing my prayers down as well as my dreams. This helps me create a reality. The more I see things, the more I believe in the idea. That is the key to my success. Another interesting fact about me is that I love wine, but when I buy my wine, I have two criteria: 1. It must be cabernet sauvignon; and 2. The wine name or label must make me laugh or be clever or be different. The third interesting fact about me is that, as I get ready in the morning, I chose my shoes first, then I pick the outfit to go with it. It’s weird, I know.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote Manny’s Mission: The Adventures of a Cerebral Palsy Superhero while I watched my son sleep after a major surgery.The inspiration to publish my book, however, came from me wanting to teach my daughters that you can literally do anything you want if you put your mind to it. I teach by design. My parenting style is to watch and learn.
What books are you currently reading?
Currently, I am not reading any books. I just finished putting together a successful 5K fundraiser for my son, Manny, and ATI Foundation, raising money for kiddos who would give anything to walk, just like Manny. Needless to say, I don’t have much time for leisure reading since taking care of my son is a full-time job. He has cerebral palsy, two feeding tubes [and] a trach, and that requires 24-hour care. His two sisters and four step-siblings keep my husband and me on our toes.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing style is a blend of truth [a[and]arcasm. You will always hear my voice as you read. I write how I speak, which is pretty cool because it offers a sense of uniqueness.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about your latest work?
I actually did have to “do it all over again” this past year because the book was originally called “The Adventures of Supermanny,” and DC filed a cease-and-desist order against me for trademark infringement, as “Superman” and “Supermanny” are too similar. I respectfully made the changes, and it offered me an opportunity to edit a few illustrations and wording. It was a scary time in my life, but I have the utmost respect for DC Comics. They are an empire for a reason, and I am honored to have been found on their radar.
What was the hardest part of completing this process?
The hardest part of completing this book was creating the “about the author” section. It was uncomfortable to write about myself in the third person.
What advice would you give to other writers?
If I could give other writers advice it would be to ignore the critics. Be proud of your work.
Describe the process of getting published?
I self-published my book through Dog Ear Publishing. I wrote and edited the book and hired an illustrator. It wasn’t a hard process. I was determined, and that helped me focus.
What were the psychological, literary and/or logistical challenges in bringing your work to life?
The psychological challenge I faced bringing the story to life was seeing images of my son walking and playing like other normal kids. I would give anything for that to be his reality.
What is the mission you set out to accomplish with this book?
The mission I set to accomplish in this book is to offer perspective. This book is about a little boy in a wheelchair who doesn’t see himself as broken. Just because he cannot speak does not mean he cannot think or dream. And just because he cannot walk doesn’t mean he will never fly.
A great book has what?
A great book has an idea that came from the heart.
You develop character ideas by …
I developed my character ideas by making them true to life. Each character in this book is based on real people who are in Manny’s life.
Where would you travel, if you could, to write your next book?
If I could travel to write my next book it would be anywhere with a beautiful sunset. Sunsets remind me that the day is coming to an end and reminds me to reflect. I always come to the same conclusion: today was effing awesome.
What is the gift of reading?
Reading offers the same gift every time: perspective. And writing offers the same gift every time: courage.