I read a lot. One of the things I read a lot about is parenting – and inevitably, I end up reading about special needs kids. None of my kids were technically special needs, other than Sam’s anxiety diagnosis, they are all neuro-typical. I claimed the special needs label a while ago, because Sam was. I actually found myself using it without consciously thinking about it, when I was trying to enroll him into religious school, and I couldn’t get them to understand that he needed things the other kids didn’t need. Other kids would be fine if their parents just dropped them off and left, two of mine would be fine if I did that. Sam would scream and rage for two hours. His had different needs – special needs, if you want to get technical. He was (and is) different.
The point that I’m trying to make is that I’m fairly used to thinking of him as dealing with more challenges than the average kid. But anxiety looks so simple now – I wish that it was just anxiety. Now we’re in a new place, and I almost look backing longingly to when I just had to deal with school phobia and separation anxiety.
I deal with what happened to Sam, with what is still happening with Sam, and what will happen in the future all the time. I feel a little crappy about it often, I process it, I grieve and I get mad. I let the feelings come and process them, and then I move on. Because that’s what you do.
Marc handles it differently. He doesn’t process a little bit all the time – he holds it all in, and then it bursts out in this flood of sorrow and sadness and regret. Yesterday it hit him that he wouldn’t be able to play catch with Sam again. Wishing he had spent more time playing with him when he could, before the accident, before he lost the ability to see a ball flying at him and be able to respond. Grieving for what we’ve lost, for what Sam lost, for what we, as parents, have lost. Life is going to have different challenges, for Sam, different from the challenges that the girls will face. And while I know the counter argument is that of course, everyone has a different path and different challenges and rewards – it still seems so monumentally unfair that this kid has to go thru this.
I know feeling badly for him doesn’t help. I know that lowering my expectations, and coddling and protecting him isn’t going to make it easier for him in the long run. But it’s so hard – forcing him out of his comfort zone. When it was just anxiety – it was easier. I could force him, because I knew it was for the best. But forcing him when he’s already socially anxious to the point where we had pulled him out of public school just before the accident – and now he literally can’t see what’s coming at him until it’s right on top of him… God, just going out in the world must be so much harder for him.
He goes. Even though I worry that I’m not pushing him enough, I still drag him out into the world. He cried and begged to go home when we went to the beach the other day, and we got through it. He found the strength, and went. And when the waves would clobber him, and he’d come staggering up out of the water, and beg to go home again, I’d wipe his face, get him a drink, and wait it out. He always went back in.
Because, in the end, as much as I wish this hadn’t happened to him, as much as I wish he hadn’t had to learn these lessons now, at this age, the truth is that he has learned that the world isn’t safe. That terrible things can happen with no warning and that your parents can’t keep you safe. That you can feel horrible, excruciating pain, and still come out on the other side. That the worst can happen, and you can survive. He’s older now. He’s wiser, and there’s a wisdom and a strength that comes from going through something like this – as much as I wish it hadn’t happened. He’s come so far, struggled so hard.
I cling to that. I remember when he was so scared to go outside, when crossing the street terrified him, and when driving down the road was panic-inducing because it was entirely possible to him that every single car could careen into us. I remember when every cloud had the potential to become a tornado, when every tree limb might fall on the car if we parked under it. He’s past feeling like that now. He’s able to adjust, to feel the fear, and then move past it. There is a resiliency now, and strength.