I wrote recently about my belief that parental expectations affect acceptance of children with special needs. Well, I just spent the last 4 hours with 150 old friends at my 30-year High School reunion (yes, I’m sorta old). It was interesting to hear all the stories of where people had been and where they were now in their lives in comparison to where I am in mine. Life is a series of stages, isn’t it? And, most of my high school chums are struggling now to put their children through college as I struggle to get mine out of diapers. That made for a rather strange and laughable time warp… for me anyway.
When I was in high school (or maybe in college when I dated one boy for 4 years), I thought 28 was a good age to get married. At 28, I thought, you’d have lived a little. Worked a little. Seen a little. Learned a little. Certainly you’d be ready to settle down by that late age! I thought early 30s was a good time to have children. Made sense after a few years of wedded bliss with just me and my hubby that we’d start growing our family. I planned to have two children… because that would be world-responsible replacing myself and my new hubby to maintain a zero population growth! No, these weren’t expectations. They weren’t wishes about how my life would go. Or even a plan. They were more an informal blue print I thought would be pretty cool and functional.
By the time I turned 29 I knew I was off-track and was going to have to wing it going forward. Knowing that all this good stuff would come when it was time (because good stuff always comes to those who wait) I was patient if not mightily preoccupied with a fulfilling career and a darn good (read: fun) life!. At that point, acceptance of where my life was and how it might turn out was key because, clearly, I was NOT in control.
Well, if you know the end of this story (or maybe the beginning) then you know that I missed every milestone event I had concocted in my young brain. I didn’t meet the man of my dreams until I was 32 and then we spent his requisite 5 years dating before we tied the knot. I already had the cat leftover from college and we got the dogS (2) before we got the marriage certificate. We married and had our first child within a year, waited 3 years and then, to my utter surprise, had identical TWINS! By the time the NeoNatologist said they had Down syndrome I was long past realizing that resistance was futile and acceptance was the only logical route!
No, my life has NOT adhered in any way to my loose idea of how I thought it might turn out. There’s a line in the movie, Marley & Me, when Jennifer Annisten (before her R word misspeak when it was OK to watch her movies) in response to her husband yelling at her that another child was not “part of the plan” says “NO, this was not part of the plan…. it’s sooo much better! This is real life!”
Yes, my life is certainly real life. Not a school girl’s dream. It’s deep and dark and ugly at times. It can be scary. And every once in awhile I think, “This is not what I asked for!” I’ve said this before too… But I guarantee you it’d probably have been all these things if The Boys didn’t have Down syndrome. If I had married at 28. Or if I had settled for just one dog and one cat instead of 2 of each. But I didn’t! And, it’s been a wondrous ride laced with the most beautiful ups and incredibly passionate downs. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life! That’s the truth! It’s been wayyy more exciting than anything I might have dreamed up in my sheltered imagination so many years ago.
Yes, it’s been a heck of an adventure so far and the ride’s not nearly over. When it comes to having children with special needs (or without)… Resistance IS futile! And acceptance opens the door to tremendous and unexpected love…
Besides, it’s just more fun!