Monday, April 14, 2014

Life is Good

We’ve had a really good week around here, between some nice forward motion in Matthew’s development and a chance to be outside together as a family, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

I realize that I’m better at posting when life feels a little rocky to me, and I’m not as good about writing blog posts that report a happy home front, but truly most of the time things around here are pretty darn good. Matthew’s making some excellent progress with his therapy, and we’ve connected with a new speech therapist here in Everett at the Providence Children’s Center who feels like a special angel sent especially for our boy. I’m excited to see what’s ahead for him as he continues to develop his language skills.

He’s also thriving in preschool—learning new things, sinking into routines, showing some fortitude for things like circle time and craft activities. We’ve figured out the snack routine (I send him something he can eat with a spoon) and for the most part he has good day after good day.

Matthew is also showing some new independence eating food on his own. He still pushes hard, solid food away (I think he’s afraid of gagging on it) but he is taking the spoon in his hand and eating his own bites of soft things (like oatmeal, rice, quinoa, banana, tofu, scrambled egg, etc.). Our feeding therapist has encouraged us to STOP feeding him entirely so that he learns to eat on his own. This has been hard (that’s my honest confession) but for the most part we are doing it, and we’re seeing pretty amazing results.

Most of all, we’ve just enjoyed some fun day outings outside, and we are seeing such fortitude and spirit of exploration that it makes the days out joyful. Plus it’s wonderful for Matthew to have the space to try out things—to experiment and touch and feel without us worrying that he’s going to break something or get into something he shouldn’t. When we are outside, I find myself letting out my breath, relaxing, and enjoying watching him learn and grow.

And these are the kind of days we have most of the time at our house. Yes, Matthew’s development is still unknown, but we have a kind of normalcy together that feels good—rhythms and routines that make life sustainable and doable. It’s a blessed, blessed thing.

So I’m happy to report a good week around here—with no big complaints and a lot of normalcy. I have no idea what next week will bring, but for now I’m enjoying all of Matthew’s milestones and not worrying about things I can’t control.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mountains and Valleys

It’s quite a journey at our house, helping a boy who is pretty delayed learn and grow.

Some nights, around 3 am, I wake in an anxious panic, the reality of Matthew’s challenges weighing heavily on my heart as I wonder scary thoughts about the future. I could easily just omit this part of my blog post, but I want to be honest in this space about the joys and challenges of our parenting process with Matthew—so it’s only fair that I tell you sometimes I’m really freaked out.

It’s not Matthew’s “special needs” in general that are scary, but rather the energy and effort that it requires of Aaron and me to parent him well so he can develop to his potential.

I know that all parenting takes energy and effort—I get it. But I also think that unless you are parenting a child with special needs, you probably have no idea just how hard it is. It’s hard because it’s all so unknown—there is no “one day he will be doing ____” to cling to, because everything is uncertain. It’s the repetition—where it would take a normally-developing child 15 times to figure something out, it takes Matthew 30. It’s the steps backward—just when we think he’s moving forward using his signs and a few words, he settles back into a kind of helpless blankness that makes tantrums more frequent and raises frustration and confusion, both for him and for us.

It’s never being able to take our eyes off of him—he’s strong and capable of body, but his mind and language and understanding are delayed, so we never know how he is going to react or interact with something. Big questions loom: what if he gets hurt? What if he never grows up? What if he never leaves home? What if we spend the rest of our lives parenting a child with very little skills?

Yes, these are the big questions and the worries that flood this mama’s heart at three in the morning sometimes. These are the valleys that are real and heavy and confusing for us on this parenting journey.

But then there are also the mountains. The moments when we celebrate all that Matthew HAS learned, when we look to the future anticipating he WILL continue to learn more and more as he develops and grows. It doesn’t give us solid answers, but it does give us a kind of hope that keeps us going—the light floods through the cracks into our dark places and reminds us that we have so much around us to see us through this journey.

We have our faith and our belief, strange though it may sound, that God called us to this adoption journey and gives us what we need to see it through. We have our family, who walk beside us and take turns caring for Matthew and see both the hard and the good moments with us. We have our friends—especially those who understand challenge and loss in parenting—adoptive parents, parents who have kids with special needs, parents who have lost children. Although our journeys are different, these shared experiences and common feelings are so encouraging to us.

And then we have our boy—who continues to delight us with small moments of growth and development.

As we round the winter into spring, with summer ahead of us, I’m so grateful for Matthew’s independence and love of the outdoors. I’m grateful that he came home to a family who also loves being outside. When we play outside together, that’s when I feel most normal as a family. Trails and the woods and the backyard are all places where Matthew can exert all his wonderful energy and explore and I know he won’t break anything (except maybe his own bones). So we play outside a lot, and we anticipate doing more of it as the weather gets nicer and nicer. A mountain for sure.

I know I should expect this journey to have its ups and downs—in fact, I was pretty sure it would have some of both when we started it. But the valleys are sometimes lower than I thought they would be. I suppose that makes the mountains feel more significant too.