Parenting is hard. There is really no book, not a universal one anyway, that truly captures the joys and heartaches or that can prepare you for the next step in your march through your child’s life. When my husband and I decided to have our first child, we knew I had lupus and that this could present very real and even life threatening complications. We thought I may not even be able to conceive (and after six months, we were almost shocked when that indicator read, “PREGNANT”), but when we did, we tried to prepare. And so, as I do with most things in my life, I studied. I read, I read, and I read some more. But when the blessed day arrived, all of that may as well have gone straight out the window. Parenting. Is. Hard.
About six months ago, it occurred to us that something may really be different about our oldest, Weston. He is bright, but sensitive and easily frustrated. He speaks clearly, but usually only echoes what he has heard. He can feed himself and remove some of his clothes, but not with a fork and spoon, and not consistently, especially when he is emotional. So we called early intervention about two months before his third birthday. Immediately, the counselor noticed that Weston was a funny, happy, and quirky child. Asked if we had any concerns, we answered that we were primarily concerned with his speech and that, perhaps, he wasn’t as far along in his ability to feed and care for himself. We had started potty training, but Weston doesn’t really speak to communicate with us, so that was getting to be a real struggle. Parenting is hard.
We were told he had demonstrated the need for further evaluation and that his “tantrums” were more than is typical of a 2-3 year old. When he was evaluated and they pulled us aside to say, “Your son is significantly delayed in every area [we tested],” we were surprised. Yet our immediate response was to take a deep breath and ask, “What can we do about it?” He was immediately referred to a developmental pediatrician. Somewhere between that appointment and the realization that our quirky little dude was delayed, the word “autism” was spoken for the first time. To make a long story less long, Weston has ausitic spectrum disorder. How mild or severe, how high or low functioning he is, isn’t really what this blog post is about, but his prognosis is good because it was caught so early. Still, he needs early and intensive intervention. Hours upon hours (upon hours) of therapy. And he needs to be a kid. That balance must be maintained, and we have been charged with maintaining it. Parenting. Is. Hard.
Though we know his neurological uniqueness is not a result of some parenting deficiency on our part, it is hard not to blame myself. My husband works long hours in the U.S. Military, so our sons spend the majority of their time with me. Have I made him worse? Have I helped him enough? I was told that the floor time we spend with him and our encouragement of his “gifts” is why Weston is far above average in his preacademics. Still, though, as a parent, I want an answer. I want to know why my child will struggle more in his day-to-day life than typical children. I want to know why God chose my husband and I to care and provide for this special gift. I want to know if there’s anything I can do to prevent our youngest from having similar struggles. And yet, as a parent, I know these things are not where my focus should be. My focus should be on helping Weston. My focus should turn to being the best parent possible to both of my children. My focus shouldn’t be on the whys, but rather on the hows. How can I help him? How can we find him the “right” therapies and services that will provide him every opportunity to be his very, very best self? And so this is where I think I am today. My first two weeks in Arkansas have been focused almost entirely on finding out how to surround Weston with the “right” support so that he can be the best Weston imaginable. It’s been a grueling, frustrating, headache of a trial and it has only just begun. They have not made my life easy here; navigating a system that seems designed so that we will give up. I won’t. I hope no one will. We have to fight for our children, even and especially when we do not know exactly whom we are fighting against. Parenting. Is. Hard.
And yet, we keep going. We have to. It is our children’s unspoken wish. Provide for them. Care for them. Fight for them. Give them the opportunity to grow, learn, and find their happiness. They deserve nothing less.
Parenting. Is. Hard.