When you become a parent you never know for sure what sort of child you’re having or what sort of parent you will be. You have hopes and dreams for both, but as with anything in life there is no certainty. When Mommy and Daddy embarked on our journey together, we didn’t even know if we were suited to be parents. Part of that was because we enjoyed our relationship so much that we couldn’t fathom sharing the other with another little being and, in retrospect, part of our indecision was based in fear. Neither of us were sure if we had the right stuff to be the type of parents we felt a child deserves. We didn’t want to bring a little person into existence if weren’t capable of being everything humanly possible that child would need.
Then, after a few years of indulging in our own carefree lifestyle, Mommy and Daddy began discussing what having a child would mean and if it was a change we were ready for. After many wonderful evenings contemplating the various scenarios with one another, many of which took place over the summer of 2007 in our backyard gazebo, Mommy and Daddy decided that yes, we wanted to be parents. So, we jumped into the roles of trying to conceive parents headlong, complete with books and appropriate dietary choices, to ensure our child would have the best chance he or she possibly could have.
Once our little darling Jack arrived on the scene, Mommy and Daddy, having read every applicable book and purchased every necessary baby accessory felt completely prepared, at least until the euphoria was replaced with the reality of just what being a parent truly means. We were ready for whatever Little Man could throw at us, but saying we were prepared is laughable. The one truth every new parent learns is there is no such thing as being prepared. You can be resolved to do your best and stand resolute in your desire to survive, but nothing can or will ever prepared for the shocking and heart blasting experience that is being a parent. There aren’t enough words in all of the languages in the world to describe what it means to be a parent, so full of love and frustration you feel your heart and soul could just burst at the seams. You love your child with a fervor that you didn’t think was possible, at least not without the complete annihilation of self. But, even if this love does cost you who you are, and in some respects it does, you’re ok with that. That’s just how much we love Jack.
One of the caveats of being a parent is that you think your child is perfect. Sure, everyone says that and we all nod our heads and smile politely, but there is something, at least for Mommy and Daddy, that keeps this idea of perfection as an ingrained truth. Little Man could have a million different people telling us there was something wrong with him by various standards, but because he is our Jack, regardless of what people say, we love him and think he is divine exactly as he is, in all of his frustrating glory.
So, when Mommy and Daddy realized that Jack wasn’t progressing in the area of speech like the rest of his peers, sure we were concerned, but he’s ours and we (mainly Mommy), just rationalized that he would eventually catch up. However, over time, progress has been slow and because we want to be the best parents we can be, to ensure our child has the best opportunities available, we have pushed for answers. Jack deserves nothing less than our best. For over a year that has been a large part of our parenting journey. Discovering if there is something we should be worried about, how to help our little guy with his challenges, and determining what all of this means. From evaluations to interviews, therapy sessions and endless waiting rooms Mommy and Daddy have walked away with some hope, some progress, but above all else, the resolute desire to do what is best for our son.
All of this culminated in two pivotal doctor’s appointments this week. The first was with a pediatrician who has a background in developmental pediatrics. Our goal was to not only find a new pediatrician for Jack and his impending sibling, but to also have Jack evaluated by someone familiar with children with developmental challenges. The second appointment was with the premiere, Dr. Big Wig himself, of developmental pediatrics. We didn’t have an appointment with him until November, but thanks to a miraculous cancellation, we were able to have Jack seen months ahead of schedule.
Due to the nature of these evaluations, Mommy and Daddy kept the results of these appointments fairly close until we were able to process them ourselves. To be perfectly honest, we were completely prepared to hear something along the lines of autism. Granted many parents fear a diagnosis of having their child on the spectrum, but Mommy and Daddy knew that regardless of what any doctor said, Jack is still our Jack and there is nothing that could be written on a diagnostic sheet that would change that. Yes he has his challenges, but to us, he is perfect, regardless of labels. The one thing we didn’t want was for other people to see a label instead of our little boy. He is our child, he is a person, and he deserves to be seen for all of his amazing qualities he possesses, like his incredibly generous heart, his tremendous sense of humor, and his adventurous nature.
But, like Mommy said earlier, to use the word ‘prepared’ as a parent, regardless of the situation is laughable. Dr. Big Wig informed us that Jack is an extremely intelligent, social, and engaging little boy who just happens to be taking his sweet time learning how to speak. While he has only seen six or seven similar cases in his twenty-five plus years in practice, it does happen and he truly believes that’s what’s going on with Jack. Bear in mind that Jack is well past his nap time and tearing up the exam room with his toys as we hear the doctor say this.
Mommy inquires about autism, Aspergers, and sensory disorders and both Daddy and I struggle to process what Dr. Big Wig is saying over our screeching toddler who is hell bent on taking his own blood pressure. Dr. Big Wig tells us that the head banging is a normal self soothing technique used by many toddlers and it’s really no different than thumb sucking. We really shouldn’t worry about brain damage or skull fractures because Jack lacks the ability to inflict that level of damage on himself. What we’re facing and have been concerned with is a perfect toddler storm. Little Man is reaching the peak of his terrible two tantrums, which is converging with his language frustrations and personal brand of heavy metal self soothing. We are reassured that he will survive this, will begin speak, and that all will be well. We’re told to continue our pursuit of both speech and occupational therapies, but as parents we’re doing everything right to help our child. Basically, this too shall pass. While this is what we had hoped to hear it wasn’t at all what we were prepared to hear and the reality of this information has yet to sink in.
It’s not easy to be prepared for the worst, so there is a sense of fear involved when it comes to relinquishing any hold on parental preparedness. Mommy is still working on figuring out how to let go of the fear without feeling as though I’m letting go of my primal mommy desire to ensure the best is achieved for my cub. This is the sort of balancing act no one can prepare you for. Being a parent is a rollercoaster ride, in the dark, with only the hands of your loved ones to guide you. It’s scary, it’s thrilling, and it’s everything a rollercoaster ought to be. And once you relinquish your need to be prepared, to anticipate every turn, you can just sit back and trust in the immense love in your heart. After all, no one is perfect, well, except for Jack.