Monday, March 28, 2011

The Smallest of Steps


"The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears." (Ellen Goodman)




My three year-old son, Seth, has several ambiguous diagnoses, and has since he was about twenty months old.  He doesn't meet milestones when he "should," and for that, he has received two years of therapy from various specialists, and now attends a preschool for children with special needs.
If you have never been a parent to a child with a "label," you have no idea the fear that can hold captive a mother or father, when they must head, blindly, into the horizon, having faith that whatever circumstances they are presented with, they and their children will have the strength to persevere.  There is a grieving that takes place, for parents, when their kids don't fit the criteria that the world, or themselves, define as "normal" or "thriving" or "healthy" or "good" or "successful" or "able"....And I'm not talking about wanting perfect children- just beings who have a chance in life.
Last fall, this worry and this grief overcame me and I lost my ability to stare my fears in the face and move forward.  All I could see that lay ahead for us, as a family, was pain, and failure...defeat...sorrow...such sorrow. And, to be honest, though I've grown stronger since then, and stabilized some, there are still hours that I spend, paralyzed with anxiety, that my children will suffer....and sometimes the hyper-vigilance begins- where I cannot focus on anything but figuring them out or getting them better or getting some answers.  Several weeks ago, I was struck, while reading an unrelated book, one night, that maybe my three year-old was retarded.  There were some milestones he was still not even close to and I could not understand why, compared to his peers, and to his siblings at that age, he couldn't do things and wasn't even showing signs of wanting to do them.  So, in a rather obsessive manner, I begged a friend that night for her opinion, then my son's teachers the next day, followed by a doctor.  In the end, it is believed, that while he has global developmental delays, his cognitive abilities are in the average range.
Yesterday evening, while getting Seth ready for his bath, I leaned over to take off his clothes and he stopped me, yelling "no mommy- I do it!"  And for the first time in his life he reached for his shirt and pulled it over his head.  Chills enveloped every particle of my being and to this minute I am smiling and near tears knowing how much I have wanted him to achieve this.  This smallest of steps amounts to so much joy for me as a mother, and for my son, who was so proud of himself- we both just stood there, in the bathroom, clapping and hugging each other.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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