Blink (for the parents of the different kind of kid)

2/8/16

They say childhood is gone in the blink of a parent's eye, but shell-shocked soldiers don't often blink.  Time doesn't budge, the earth may well not be rotating, and they stare saucer-eyed into a future that feels too much to bear.  It's a terrifying thing, to be one of the wounded ones when you always fancied yourself among the most capable.

I became a mother half a blink before my son's first birthday, and for each one that came after that I could have sworn there might have been ten.  Friends around me affectionately bemoaned the growing up of their own little ones and I sat, hollow, silently praying that mine could get to it a little bit faster.

No one loved their child more than I.  No one.

Kathryn Kruger Photography

But also, none of those friends had wrapped their arms around hypervigilance because letting go could spell disaster at any given moment.  None of those moms calculated safe distances in public places because there was no telling when the unbearable anxiety would push their toddler to attack a random passerby.  None of my friends cried at the kitchen table because every single meal resulted in dinnerware being thrown all over the room by a child who was "old enough" to eat.  None of my camrades lost feeling in their hand for weeks after a particularly terrified bite.

I never blinked, and time never passed.

The hardest part about parenting a child who (due to nurture or to nature) is wired differently isn't the therapeutic techniques or the adjustments you have to make to accommodate their needs: it's the ominous pool of time before you accept that you have to.  It's those gut-wrenching, life-altering dark waters of looking for solutions and asking for diagnoses and desperately piecing together clues from the past.  It's unintentionally willing your child to be something other than just who he is.

It's demanding answers that you'll likely never have.

It's seeing other families doing exactly the things you always imagined of your own, except your family can't do them.  It's comparing your child to someone else's and then drowning in self-loathing for doing so.  It's the Ugly that you've never seen fly off your hands or out of your mouth, and the realization that you aren't who you thought you were.

Kathryn Kruger Photography

That time is the hardest.  But it will pass and when it does, you will stop caring so much about having words for it or answers to it.  You will realize that this is just your life together, and for God's sakes you don't want to miss it.  You will figure out how to make it work; you will even figure out how to laugh about it.  You will look at yourself and you'll notice how much less your judge others.  You'll notice that you give people the benefit of the doubt.  You'll notice how much more you listen and how much less you talk.  And, miracle of miracles, you will be thankful.

You will blink.

And that child?  He'll grow.  It won't happen overnight and hard days will still come, but the scales will start tipping in favor of the good ones.  He'll find a rhythm and you will too and when you start to sync up together it will be the sweetest thing you've ever known, because you both did the hardest work of your life to hear that music play.  Your child will grow and will exhibit self control and compassion and hard work and bravery and you will think Good God, I might not be screwing this whole thing up after all.  And it will be true.


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Alyosha turned 6 on Saturday and every time I think of it too much I cry.  For the first time, I can finally say, "where does the time go?!"  He is one of the most spectacular people I have ever known, and it is my great honor to be his mother.  Happy Birthday to my smart, kind, generous, brave little boy!


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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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