No parenting journey follows a text book. It seems trite to say it, but every family is made up of a tapestry of different experiences and sometimes those experiences are immeasurably unique.
I’ve known many parents who have lost children, leaving them broken inside. Forever. And no amount of physical torture could possibly be worse than what I imagine they feel every day. In my heart of hearts, deep down where it’s just too scary to think about such things, their experiences haunt me.
But all parents are slightly damaged in their own way. Myself, I have two kids and neither one of them would fit any mould. Right from birth they’ve had their own challenges, like any kid, but some of their challenges have been unique. My daughter was premature and spent months in hospital. From the moment we were told she wouldn’t make it, (in utero), her life was changed and so were we, as parents. My son is the sweetest and most caring child I know, and he’s so very clever it scares me. But behaviourally he’s been a constant challenge in ways I couldn’t possibly imagine before I had children. And it has changed me as a person and as a mother.
The thing is, we think we know what it will be like to be a parent. We plan for everything from the pregnancy to birth and beyond. We have this misguided belief that studying up, learning, reading books will give us a degree of control. The fact that it doesn’t is a thought so terrifying, most of us choose not to acknowledge it.
When things go wrong it can leave you hollow and unsure of the road ahead. It can feel as though no one could possibly understand what you’re going through. It can feel as though you’ve let your kids down by not being able to do what every parent feels they need to do. Protect and nurture their children. It can feel…not normal.
Normal is such a powerful word. It can mean sitting a bell curve, it can mean things being easier, it can mean there’s nothing to report. For some, it means you are doing your job right. Mostly, to me, it means a protective layer around my children that shields them from scary things. But, in the end, that is the easy way out. Because as kids grow up, they will learn to turn their challenges into opportunities and thrive. Maybe they will learn to cope and make the best of things. Maybe, they’ll make their idiosyncrasies work for them, if we do our jobs as parents well enough.
So this is for all the kids who have allergies, syndromes, illnesses or are on a spectrum which makes them exceptional in some way. And mostly, this is for their parents who thought the journey would go one way and ended up taking the scenic route, or a side track, or even a huge U turn into oncoming traffic. For the mums with PND, the single parents with custody challenges, the parents whose children have a behavioural disorder. Or, who are parents to children that are no longer with them and worry how it will affect his or her siblings. Whether it’s a heartbreaking tragedy or something that’s just not normal, this is for parents who had something go wrong. This is for the parents who have daily struggles to keep up the appearance of normality. Who crave it for their children. Who want to leave that hollow feeling behind, and let go of the guilt and sadness that goes with it.
Whatever is on your family tapestry, whatever you are doing, you are doing a great job. It’s indescribably hard to be responsible for the entirety of wellbeing of a little person that is completely separate from you and sometimes there are things you can’t control. Sometimes you just have to let go and give in to the universe. Sometimes not normal is just the way it is. And sometimes not normal can be wonderful.