When my daughter was born prematurely, they said she might not breathe. Then they said she might be in a hospital for two months. They said she might need a year to catch up. Soon enough, she was at the top of the charts. Then they said she might be delayed. Then they said she was ahead. Then just last week someone said she might be slow, and need an extra year to catch up.
I no longer have faith in these pronouncements. My daughter has never been anything but completely herself, no matter what they called it.
All parents struggle with fear, hope, and expectations for their children, so I wanted to respond publicly to a mother who contacted me last week.
I’m totally unqualified to give guidance in her circumstance, so I’m only going on faith. That’s all any of us has to go on.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read my mail. I feel a bit silly for writing to you, but I decided to get over that because my need for relief is so great.
The willingness to feel foolish is the first step on the path. It’s also the last step on the path. To be honest, it’s every step on the path.
I am mother to two children: a less ordinary boy of just 5 years with a mild disability; and a girl of 2 1/2. I have noticed that having a non-average child complicates matters in a way I never saw coming.
Give yourself credit for what you didn’t see coming. Most of us think we see much farther ahead than we really can. We anticipate outcomes and draw foregone conclusions. Then we leap to either a false sense of security or a false sense of insecurity. Anything we conclude about the future is false. All that we can ever see is what is right in front of our eyes, and so I encourage you to keep that focus. Then you can be sure that you are always seeing clearly, because you are seeing things as they are.
It takes strength to see things as they are without interpreting it to mean one thing or another.
I’m not one of those mothers who always knew that there was something wrong. It is rather the opposite. My son feels OK to me. I see his delayed development and the stress he experiences because of that, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. I see a solid foundation in him and know that he will grow.
You’ve said two things here that are profound. First “my son feels OK to me.” This is the peace we seek: to be OK even when it is not OK. What makes it OK is the second thing you said, “it’s nothing we can’t handle.” This is the ground of faith. Not faith in a certain set of outcomes — the ones we want, wish, like, push, and prod for — but faith rooted in the reality of the present moment. The present is where we stand, and to stand upright where we are is the embodiment of strength. This is the strength we use to handle things as they occur, staying steady and aware without getting caught in the mind-spinning panic and paranoia of a future we cannot predict.
And let’s be clear: the future is unpredictable for everyone, no matter what. read more