It's a beautiful sunny, Saturday morning, and I just got home from a walk with Matthew and the dog around our neighborhood. We are midway through a day filled with many soccer games. We just returned from my nephew’s game earlier this morning, and in a few minutes will head out the door again to watch my middle son play with his team.
While walking on this glorious fall morning, it dawned on me that even though we do have moments our house that feel hard and overwhelming, I'm grateful that most of the normal times feel exactly that: normal. Perhaps to some families, our family life looks a little irregular. I suppose it is, but it's also the only thing we know anymore.
I think one of the biggest challenges about parenting a child with special needs is finding enough time to rest and have a break. Yes, I do wake in the middle of the night worrying about the future, but I'm more likely to worry about tomorrow and when on earth I'm going to find even a minute to myself. I'm sure this situation is made worse because of the busy frenzy with which current parents and children live. Our post-modern parenting world is full of too many choices, opportunities to fill our lives full to the brim, all in the name of giving our kids the best childhood we can.
What's funny is that for me as a parent, what I really worry about isn't letting my kids participate in every single activity, but hoping that they are getting the meaningful and purposeful childhood that I was lucky enough to have.
There is always a way to fill the schedule too full and end up feeling exhausted and worn out all the time. I think this can even be a bigger problem when parenting a child with special needs. There is more energy needed, more constant vigilance, more time and support, than with most neurotypical kids. At least that is the case in our family. So one of the challenges I've given myself these days is to really evaluate our lives and figure out how to make our days simpler so I can get the break that I need once in a while. I know Aaron needs a break too.
On sunny Saturday mornings when I've gotten enough sleep and have the energy to problem solve, I'm encouraged by the thought that there are breaks to be had if only I plan for them. No, I can't control the future, but I can create enough rest and downtime in our family so that I don't continually wake up at 2:00 a.m. worrying about the next day, the next week, or 10 years from now.
I'm trying to do this better. I have said 100 times that this parenting journey with Matthew continues to refine and shape me in ways I never expected. Here, then, is another example of just that.
It is actually a sweet sort of life we live most days . . . When Matthew is doing okay and is acting rather even, when we keep our lives simple enough to get some rest, and when we each have a chance to have a break, then it's all very doable. I don't want you to think it's terrible and hard all the time, but the reality is we do have some very hard days as well.
It's an adventure, no way around it. One I'm both grateful for and terrified of, but I suppose both fear and gratitude our normal parts of living a full and meaningful life. A Saturday filled with sunshine and fresh air certainly helps me keep some perspective about it all.