Thursday, September 10, 2009
Update From the Wolf Den: How About Mom and Dad?
"Character-the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life-is the source from which self-respect springs" Joan Didion, author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem
At a point where we, Yukon and Mom, are facing a whirlwind of decision-making for now and later concerning our oldest child, and looking at both the inherent "character" and ability to gain some self-respect of said child, this quote from Ms. Didion seems acutely appropriate.
There is no mistaking the suffering many families, including ours, have endured during their time living with, caring for, and loving on a child with disabilities, be they physical, emotional, social, or otherwise. There have been days fraught with anxiety, as a new diagnosis or care strategy plays out; times when Yukon might very well have tossed me in the looney bin had he not been a different sort of man. There rarely seems to be a moment when we parents can let our proverbial guard down. Something may happen that needs our immediate attention, a decision might need to be made, a signature might be required, a phone conference between child and staff and parents might need to be conducted.
We learned long ago to turn this sort of "foxhole living", where we just sit and wait for the bombs to fall and then fight back, into a more productive mode of caring for both ourselves and our kids. When Wolf was in sixth grade and just beginning to struggle socially and academically, and we were in the midst of a move from South Carolina to Alaska, I took all the anxiety of everyone else (and perhaps more), and moved it to me. I wasted away physically and emotionally, snapping at everyone and lacking an outlet for my frustration over a child who obviously was struggling and the stress of moving. Poor Yukon took the brunt but was the Star of this show, managing us all with his calm ways in the midst of crazy times but eventually allowed me to see that he was far, far more effective in his calmness than I ever was in my anxiety.
The foxhole became deepest just before Wolf left, as our lives were lived in defense as opposed to personal, positive offense. One of our most valuable discoveries in our weekly family therapy has been our ability to discern that anxiety and channel it into something productive. CHYC has asked if we would facilitate an Alaskan family support group, if I would help them create a workable discharge packet for moms and dads to better be re-acquainted with these kids of ours as they transition home.
Like Wolf, we parents have to spend a fair amount of time evaluating our own level of character in the midst of a life that might not be what we planned for initially. We must, as must those hundreds of thousands of other parents around the world whose children are not like everyone else's. It starts with the self-respect of a human doing the best they can, all day, every day. And being okay with it. Character, don't waste it in a foxhole.