I gave my writing students the following prompt this week: Write about someone who has had a profound impact on your life.
I wrote while they wrote, and this is the result.
(For context, as I was writing and teaching this, Jack was en route from his rural town to the children’s hospital, following a week of heinous behavior which included being taken to DT in a police car and having charges brought against him for smacking a small child at school. See fb or Instagram if you want to know more. *Hint, you don’t want to know more.)
*Ahem* (clears throat).
Jack has had a profound impact on me.
From him, I understand more about humility, fear, the depth of love, lack of control, true hardship, true bonding, perseverance, acceptance, violence, hurt, seeing past people’s flaws, seeing people’s true selves, and hope.
I am harder now—in the sense that I don’t waste time worrying about certain things or what people are thinking about me.
I’m softer in the sense that I can empathize with people in their struggle, whatever that struggle looks like.
I’m sadder, because I’ve been to the depths and back.
I’m happier, because I’ve been to the depths and back.
I appreciate variations more, meaning I value calm, boredom, excitement, novelty, spontaneity, and routine. When there is freedom to be different and experience difference, there is beauty in life. The opposite of this feeling is bondage, and it restricted my life and spirit for years.
In the past week, I have experienced a strange vacillation, of swinging between a) feeling like the issues with Jack are never-ending, to b) feeling an encompassing sense of “normalcy” in the chaos. It just doesn’t seem surprising anymore, nor entirely overwhelming (she said, ironically, as she wrote in the quiet of the university library on a sunny morning, after a decent night’s sleep).
Yesterday was a different story. Following two nights of subpar sleep, compounded by the emotional free-fall of Jack’s awful week, I was the very definition of overwhelmed.
Today is a new day.
I’m just not super shocked by the things that happen anymore. It’s basically life with Jack in it.
At the same time, when people announce their pregnancies on social media, I straight up feel nauseous on their behalf. This is not hyperbole. I see the possible beginning of a burden-filled, soul-taxing journey in the name of raising children. Because of the wild nature of my parenting experience, I know what could happen, and it makes me entirely jaded.
Child-raising, it turns out, is my Everest.
While I know in some subconscious place that not all people will face a parenting battlefield like mine, I see the potential for disabilities, for extreme hardship. I don’t see it as something that happens to other people. I see it as a reality, even an inevitability.
I’ve wondered if my life as a mom of children with special needs has made me more fearful. It’s certainly led me through fear. But I’ve been doing this long enough that I can see how the process works. My family has also pushed me past those murky swamps and on to acceptance, growth, and understanding.
While I’m utterly exhausted and sometimes filled with rage at the strenuousness and the endlessness of disabilities parenting, I am simultaneously glad that my children are mine. That their struggles are my struggles. That we are doing life together.
They are mine. I help them. They teach me. We love each other.
We are family.