A dear friend of mine has a blog that I devour on a weekly basis. I love it because she lays it all on the table with refreshing honesty. Recently she mused about this idea: if you could change one thing about your past, would you?
I’m pretty sure she and I are psychic wonder twins because I had been mulling this very concept in my head all week. While driving my kids to the pediatrician, to football practice, and to kindergarten assessments, I wondered, if I were given the chance to change something big about my life—something that changed everything that came after it—would I do it?
In some ways the question is moot, because it’s not an opportunity that presents itself to people outside of movies and books. This is the real world, not the set of Bedford Falls. There isn’t a portly middle-aged guardian angel showing me what life would look like without George Bailey in the picture.
Asking if I would like to have a do-over seems kind of silly, like if someone were to ask me, “Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you didn’t have children?” Or “What would your life be like if two of your kids didn’t have special needs?” Since I totally do have kids, and since two of them absolutely have special needs, considering the alternative is sort of an exercise in pointlessness.
(For the record, I have pondered both questions anyway, and the answer to both is this: It would be easier, dummy.)
There are choices I have made which have made my life much harder and way more complicated: like having two children after having a child with a rare syndrome and cognitive delays. This decision wasn’t something Jeff or I took lightly. For us, the possibility of having another disabled child was not just a vague, uncomfortable possibility. It was a real possibility. But we pursued it because spiritually and intuitively, we knew that our family was not yet complete.
We had two more sons, post-Jack, and one of them has special needs of his own. The nature of our family has gone from complex and difficult to vastly more complex and difficult.
Pondering the alternative to my current life has reinforced to me why I chose to have more children. I didn’t do it because parenting children like mine is easy. I didn’t do it because having lots of children is fashionable (four is the new two, said no one ever). I didn’t do it because I was hoping for extra farmhands to help out on the family farm. I didn’t do it because we were trying for a girl.
I did it because praying and meditating illuminated this as the right path for our family.
I’m on that yellow road, the one less travelled in Frost’s iconic poem; my choice was grassy and wanted wear. More than that, it felt right and I took it.
If I could change my decision to have a big, complicated, unusual family, would I? If I knew the ongoing struggles which would figuratively bloody our shins and rub our noses in the mud and literally fill my life with poop and screaming on a daily basis, would I do it again?
My epiphany was this: I would.