As our family life changes and becomes more challenging, I am finding it more and more difficult to write about life. Yet, I’m sure the things we have encountered as a family are not unique. So I am going to push myself to write about them, knowing that as ‘different’ as our family is; we are not alone.
As parents we often start with these expectations of how things are going to be, how our children are going to be and how we are going to be with our children. We enter into parenthood with ideals, pictures and examples of what we want our lives to look like. We buy or do things because they are supposed to help, we avoid things because they may harm, and most of all we stack ourselves up against how other families are doing. Unfortunately, it’s these ideals and expectations that can cause rude awakenings for families who are less-than-perfect.
I’m not exactly sure when my rude awakening to our not-so-perfect family occurred, but I do know it was followed by depression. I never wanted the same struggles for my children as I had, and I certainly didn’t want more challenging ones! When you first discover that the mental pictures you have painted of your family are not quite accurate- disillusionment can ensue. Rude awakenings can occur, crushing parental expectations for many reasons: whether your child has to wear glasses, has anaphylaxis, asthma, juvenile diabetes, acid reflux, still wets the bed, has wicked temper tantrums, a learning disability, adhd, autism and any other type of disability, or even something that makes them just a little more ‘challenging.’
Upon realizing that one’s family is less-than-perfect you begin the process of becoming comfortably uncomfortable. For me, this process started off slowly, beginning with acknowledging that my first born did not like to sleep and that I, in turn, was not rested and losing my footing. Eventually we added more less-than-perfect’s to our lives some of them drastically impacting the way we socialized with others. When you’re forced to ask people who are around your son to not bring snacks or serve food that might have peanuts in it, or asking people to wash their hands before they play with your son’s toys, it often becomes easier to withdrawal than risk being treated as an inconvenience. For me, this fear was further magnified with the emergence of behaviour that didn’t always fit the mould or environment our son was in. We became that family that others stared at in the grocery store because their child was having a meltdown.
The second part of my journey to becoming ‘comfortably uncomfortable’; was accepting that it’s okay to be different. I was a quirky child, my husband was quirky child, we are quirky adults and our children are…that’s right; quirky. It’s not that everything about being quirky is difficult, but the difficult things need to be acknowledged and honoured. For myself, being able to acknowledge the things that were not going well, was made easier by looking at the difficult and amazing parts to being ‘different’ at the same time. For instance, I would say: It is painful when my son has melt downs over pocket lint, but it’s hilarious that he loves to dress as the Undercover Boss. Framing struggles with a bit more context often helps to make things a little less depressing. I love both my sons, and they do not have to be perfect or like everyone else for me to accept and love them.
The third part of this process that I really needed to go through, was to accept help when things were beyond me. It does not make you a bad parent to admit you don’t know how to deal with something. Once you are able to acknowledge the ‘differences’ in your family; it becomes easier to embrace support when the difficult parts of these differences interfere with your family functioning. Whether the help comes through family, friends, counselling, occupational therapy, specialists, medication, etc., there is no shame in admitting the challenges may be a bit bigger than you thought. It’s scary to get help, because sometimes getting help means being judged or giving a label to a struggle; As much as this potentially opens the door to a lifetime of preconceived notions and criticism from others, it is important to push through until you have the support needed to improve things. One of the things I want for my children as they grow up, is to become the most well-adjusted adults they can be, but to do this we may need help along the way.
The part of the journey to becoming a comfortably uncomfortable parent that I am currently at is where I am learning to embrace people who cherish my children for who they are. We are so lucky to have people in our lives that understand what being different is like and get a kick out of it. Usually these people can take the difficult parts to being different in stride. They don’t talk about how awful your child(ren) are behind your back, or about how you as a parent have failed or are doing things wrong. These people are the ones who find joy in playing a role in your child’s life, and who don’t treat your child as a half human due to their differences. I feel so fortunate to have these people in our lives; they make it easier for us to embrace both the good and bad parts to being different.
In this journey, my children have been my main teachers as I learn to be comfortably uncomfortable. They have shown me that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Sometimes all it takes is the simple pleasures and small victories to bring us joy. I accept and expect that there will be many bad days to come, which I suppose makes it easier to be grateful for the good ones. I embrace that our family and my children are not what I imagined them to be- and I am okay with that. I acknowledge that for me, parenthood will be an ongoing challenge, but for now I will remain a comfortably uncomfortable parent in my less-than-perfect family.
P.S. If you feel alone because of what makes you different, remember; different is the new normal.
Like many bloggers before me, I have been on a bit of a hiatus. I hate to do this “since the last time I wrote…” business, but seriously since the last time I wrote…
About a month after the passing of our beloved GG, my husband was in an accident at work. Without getting into too many details he had a serious fall that could have left him paralyzed or worse, but instead he amazingly landed on his feet and left hand after falling from over 17 feet. While the last three months have consisted of Physio Therapy and Doctor Appointments, I am very aware that things could have looked much differently and not a day goes by that I don’t know it. While having my partner home has been difficult at times, it has indeed made us stronger. He has healed up quite nicely and has recently returned to work. He would credit his cat like reflexes or skateboarding skills for landing on his feet, but we both know that things could have turned out much worse!
As the famous Dr. Seuss has written, “that is not all. Oh, no. That is not all…”
We took advantage of my husband’s time off over Christmas and drove out to visit my dad’s side of the family. It was great to see my grandmother, my aunt, uncles, many cousins, and cousin’s children! While out there, the kids caught some crazy super cold that was filled with puking and coughing. Since our youngest son’s bout with Pertussis (whooping cough) he has become a germ magnet and gets sick very easily. So while on our 14 hour journey home, his crazy super cold got much worse. By the time we got home, he had a really bad fever and was coughing up junk. We took him to the hospital and chest x-rays confirmed that he had developed pneumonia. Now the kicker in all this was that it was right over our oldest son’s 5th birthday. Thankfully he didn’t notice this fact until only a couple weeks ago, after he went to another child’s birthday party. Our youngest has since recovered (though he has another cold and an ear infection right now) and our oldest has been spoiled enough to make up for the lack of presents or party on his birthday.
Two weeks following our oldest son’s birthday, our youngest son turned 1! Lately we have kept all birthday’s low key and I have been able to let go of my guilt and replace it with appreciation for my family’s existence! Looking back at our youngest son’s life I amazed that while being sick with all the many illnesses he’s experienced, he has been able to hit all his milestones! He was walking (and I mean WALKING!) shortly prior to 8 months, he was climbing weeks later and has been a happy little boy that doesn’t let much interfere with his play time. I have been inspired by his resiliency and tried embracing it in my own life. This is the boy that I would wake with many, many times a night pounding on his back as he stopped breathing due to pertussis, this is the boy that would cough and choke on his own phlegm several times a night because of pneumonia; I remember holding my breath in until I would hear him take his first breath in. It is amazing that such a little person can have so much strength; his illnesses have made teething seem like a mosquito bite.
While we have had some of the less then helpful opinions on the causes of our challenges, we have also been very fortunate to have such awesome people in our lives that have helped make our year a good one. I believe that when you live in a supportive community, it becomes easier to be resilient; and our family has had to be resilient. I will abstain from listing all of our struggles of the year, because I’m set on moving forward. I love our family’s capacity to deal with challenges and our resiliency when it comes to struggles. We have not always been able to hold it all together, but we have definitely managed to stay and grow together; which is the best possible outcome in the face of adversity.
So, I will end with this,
To my family: I love you to the moon and back and I am proud of you and proud to be a mom, wife and daughter!
To my friends and community: I have so much appreciation for the way you have supported us in both simple and large ways.
P.S. It’s hard to make supper in the dark; So to make it easier, if you are able, turn on the lights.