If you had asked me five years ago how I pictured my life would turn out, I would have told you that I was totally flexible, that I would be happy with whatever God has in store for me.
I also would have been lying through my teeth. I had a definite vision of how things would go. I was already dating Daniel, so of course we would be married, which we so are. We would both be working and saving for a house, which we would move into after a couple of years, which teeeeeechnically we did…we just don’t own the house. Then we would talk about kids. I wanted a boy first and then a girl – am I good, or what?
But there were obviously some things I didn’t plan on. I didn’t plan on having my son 14 weeks early. I didn’t plan on getting laid off a month after he came home. I didn’t plan on moving into my parents’ basement apartment. I didn’t plan on having another baby so soon after Josh (and when you read this in twenty years, Jenna, I DO love you. I’m glad you’re here. You just surprised us a little. A lot. We might never get over the shock. lolol jk.). I didn’t plan on arranging my weekly schedule around doctors’ visits and specialists.
It’s kind of funny that I got all of the things I pictured for my life, but not at all in the way I anticipated.
But I am not sad about it. I have a really great life. I have a wonderful marriage with an amazing husband. I have the two cutest kids on the planet – go ahead, line up every kid on the planet and see if you can find a cuter one. I’ll wait. I have a good job and my husband has a good job. I have family who loves me and friends to laugh with and a whole community of support. It’s a good life. I am not disappointed. Just still getting used to it.
I have been thinking about that a lot lately – disappointment vs. adjustment. I certainly didn’t plan on a lot of things that have happened, but I wouldn’t change any of it. I just need to adjust my mindset and my attitude about it.
I think that is especially true when it comes to Joshua and his development. When he was born so early, countless doctors and specialists told us he would likely catch up by the time he was two years old. I anticipated that two year mark every day. I didn’t want to wish away my time or miss his years as a little baby, but I couldn’t help but look forward to the day that I wouldn’t get stopped in grocery stores by people asking about his oxygen or his size or whatever else people come up with (side note: strangers, please stop approaching me in grocery stores.).
It became clear after a while that Josh was on his own timeframe, and no one could predict when or what he would decide to try next. He sat up at 14 months, crawled at 17 months, and took his first step two weeks before his second birthday. We stopped focusing on what kids his age should be doing and just focused on helping him progress in his own way.
Still, I was in denial that he was behind. I just knew that the day he turned two someone would snap their fingers and he would be caught up. That’s silly and I am kind of embarrassed over how much I clung to that hope. But (spoiler alert) while his second birthday was filled with love and family and friends and joy, he did not suddenly stand up and start doing cartwheels around the room. That actually would have been a little weird so I’m glad he didn’t do that.
Don’t get me wrong; I am super proud of Josh. He has worked really hard and accomplished so many things. His PT was just telling me how proud she was of all that he has done over the last six months. He is a smart kid.
I just didn’t want to acknowledge his delays. I wanted to pretend like there were no differences between him and an “average” two-year-old. But there are. They aren’t bad. They are just not what I expected. He has some needs that are special. You could even say he has special needs.
That label, that “special needs” description, was one that I avoided for a long time. I was so convinced that his delays were going to disappear overnight, that he would suddenly catch up all at once, that I didn’t want to use those words to describe my son. When I first saw them written on one of his doctor’s forms, it was like a punch to the gut. I didn’t want that label. And please know that I don’t think having a special need is bad. Having a special need is part of many wonderful children I know and it makes them who they are. I just never expected it to be my kid.
But it is. It is my kid. Not because something has suddenly changed, or because he has fallen drastically behind with no hope of catching up. He just has needs that are out of the range of “typical.” A lot of kids do. My kid is one of them. It isn’t bad. It isn’t good. It just is. My hair is brown and his needs are special. It is just a fact of life.
His needs might change down the road. I think he will do really well in school and in playing and will have a wonderful and successful life. He will never be a sports star but that is because of his genetics, not his prematurity. Womp, wommmppp.
So I have decided to stop pretending. No amount of pretending will change anything, anyway. Josh is who he is: A smart, chatty, hard-working kid who loves to be chased and tickled and is a little bit in love with Mickey Mouse. He does things in his own way, in his own time. Some of his needs are special. Some of his needs are typical. It isn’t bad. It isn’t good. It just is. No label and no words can ever change that.
If you have a kid with needs that are special, I hope this helps you. I hope you know that you’re not alone. And I hope you know that everything will be okay.
It isn’t bad. It isn’t good. It just is.