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Saturday, September 22, 2012

False Sense of Security

I have never forgotten my high school Driver's Ed teacher's exact words: "Do not let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security." This is good advice for driving, but it has also  proven to be great lifelong advice for me while raising kids who have multiple special needs. Since our first babies were born, we haven't known what was coming next. The kids frequently get sick, we have a heart defect to monitor yearly, another child has a heart "anomaly" that we keep track of, we have hearing loss issues to monitor, eye problems have cropped up, surgeries for tubes in ears and tonsils removed, blood tests to check levels of meds and internal organ functioning, changing sensory issues, allergies, behavior changes, sleep changes, med changes, school challenges...the list goes on and on. 
No parent ever knows what is coming next for their kids, and even if you have typically developing kids, there are surprises and challenges along the way. I think because our kids have special needs, we probably have a different type and higher frequency of challenges that take us by surprise. Sometimes it strikes me that this crazy life of ours isn't "normal," it's not the typical experience of most families to face the daily challenges that we do. It does feel normal to me, because it's always been this way. You get used to the years and years of sleep deprivation, anxiety, ups and downs. Especially when I have time to sit and think, I realize I'm really tired. Most parents are tired, I know, but I wonder what it's like to not have kids with special needs that can be so exhausting at times. I wonder if it's "normal" to be bone-soul-tired as often as I am. 
My trick is I never sit down. I just keep going and going, like that old Energizer Bunny commercial. My sweet, naive husband frequently makes the mistake of sitting down (and trying to "relax"- ha! Has he met our kids??), which makes him realize how exhausted he is, which makes him not want to get up to do the next thing that has to be done. But I rarely sit down. I know if I do, I'll be done. I'll realize how completely spent I am, and I just won't be able to get up again. But if I stay on my feet and keep doing the Mama Thing, I'm able to keep the exhaustion from creeping in.

One thing that really aggravates me, though, is that for all the energy I feel like I expend, there is still so incredibly much that still needs to be done each day. There are often four little mouths asking me for something, eight arms needing hugs, knees needing bandaids, feet that need rollerblades put on them, bike seats that need adjusting, shoes that need finding, floors that need cleaning, toilets that need de-peeing, kids to be fed and drinks to be given, laundry to be done, groceries to be bought, therapies to be attended, meds to be given, brushing to be completed, fights to be solved, dust bunnies to be found, hamsters to be fed, toys to be put away, sheets to be changed because someone peed in them, doctors to be called...sometimes all in one day! 

I always feel like I have to be "on guard" for whatever unexpected thing might cross our path. Watchful, but not overbearing. Attentive but not hovering. Just when you think the kids' behavior issues are relatively under control- no one has broken anything or drawn blood for a while- a huge rage creeps up. Just when you think you're taking your kid into the doctor for a routine checkup, you're told you need an immediate EKG because the doctor hears something alarming in your baby's heart. Just when you think everyone might actually be sleeping through the night for once in 10 years, someone wakes up with a night terror. 

Parenthood is full of surprises, some fantastic, some terrifying. You never know what each day will hold until you live it. I've learned I have to cherish each fragile moment that is good, and deal with the challenging moments as they come.  I'm never lulled into a "false sense of security," because I've learned how very delicate and changing life can be, but I am able to squeeze the joy out of all our great moments as a family. And I'm content with that.

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