Surrendering

Right from the beginning he preferred the path of least resistance. After having food delivered directly to his tiny stomach though a tube in his even tinier nose, and then enjoying the relative ease of feeding from a bottle, my son refused to nurse. Latch on, suck twice, give up. He won that battle, eventually, but the war rages on.

It shouldn’t surprise me, then, that we have come to this place. And yet I find myself unprepared.

I’ve long said that one of the gifts of having a child with a disability is that it distills my job as a parent to its essence: Prepare him to live in the world. Preferably as a happy, fulfilled and kind human being. The disability complicates my mission even as it clarifies it. For some things the learning curve is steep and, at times, it’s been easier taking a slower route and letting him progress in his own time. And now I fear that I have failed him.

Puberty has come to our house, bringing with its onslaught of hormones that aching need to belong, the one that walks hand in hand with the absolute certainty that you never really will. Add to that the all-encompassing otherness of actually being noticeably different from your peers and frustration and anger follow. And so it is that my sweet little boy, the one who seemed blissfully unaware of his difference, is fading away.

The young man he is becoming, one who I’d hoped would fall in love with words and other pursuits of the mind, is all about the physical; sports of every kind catch and hold his attention like nothing else. He pursues them the best he can, but his reality sometimes falls short of his dreams. In his imagination, he is tall and strong and capable, able to run fast and jump high and be and do with an ease he may never know. The wasted muscles of his right leg and the inability to properly control his right arm tell him a different story than the elaborate narrative in his head. Sometimes what he wants to do doesn’t come easy.

This is the wall we have slammed into.

Despite his limitations, he’s not struggled much in his life. He’s an only child and an only grandchild and as such he’s been showered with attention and things. He’s been indulged by his extended family even while we push him slowly toward independence. Perhaps we haven’t pushed him enough. Other adults in his life—doctors, family friends, teachers—have been generous to him, maybe feeling the need to smooth the way for a smart, charming little boy who straddles two worlds: “normal” and “disabled.”

In other words, he’s not had to work much for anything.

But time moves forward, children grow up. He’s becoming more and more aware that life, for him, will be more challenging in some ways than his friends’. But instead of using this fact to make him stronger, he surrenders. He gives up.

I have not done my job, despite my best efforts.

He is in a place I have never been been, treading uncharted waters.

It is time for me to surrender. It is time for me to ask for help.

 

14 Comments

  1. First things first: please don’t ever think to haven’t don’t you job. You have. As parents we can only give guidance, and then their individual personality will do with our guidance what it will.

    My son is not disabled and he also chooses the path of least resistance most times, despite my best efforts to guide him otherwise. When he announced the impending fatherhood I thought for sure I had failed. But then I remembered all the discussions we had on that very subject ever since he was in the single age digits and I realized that I can give him the tools but I can’t make him use them. It was hard to let that go.

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    @Lisa, Thank you for that. I was saying to a friend yesterday that I wish they covered this shit in the parenting handbook – you know, the one that doesn’t exist?

    I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier if I had something else to compare it to. And then I remember I have a whole Internet full of parents for that! xo

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  2. This breaks my heart, but not because it’s hard for him – because you are selling yourself short. The job isn’t done and you have always done the best you can.

    And as Lisa said, my son also takes the path of least resistance and it drives me crazy BECAUSE he is capable of so much more.

    That’s not a failing of motherhood; that’s human nature.

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    @Miss Britt, I guess, but I see other kids working at things and if he can’t do it perfectly the first time, he just doesn’t do it.

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  3. Our jobs as mothers is one of the most challenging, under appreciated vocations this world will ever know. All children seem to choose the path of least resistance. I think it’s a human trait we have ingrained in us. I have the same problem with my two youngest. People see their diabetes (NOT a handicap IMHO) and treat them differently. We struggle constantly with trying to show them that nothing worthwhile ever comes easily.

    You ARE doing your job. Mothers give their offspring the tools they need to survive in this world. We can’t make them use them. It’s an age old struggle.

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    @Blondefabulous, We’re working on the independence thing now, letting him screw stuff up if necessary instead of just helping him. He’s not allowed to ask for help until he’s tried to do it himself first. He still asks. So, I guess you’re right!

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  4. It sounds like there are two basic responses for children in this situation, and he’s chosen this one (for now). It sounds like a logical phase to me, rather than a failure on your part. Undeniably heartbreaking to watch, but I bet if you seek others who’ve been in *this* situation, you’ll get confirmation that the kids pull out of it, they wear out the phase, and decide to move on to make the most of things that they can. But, devil’s advocate, if that’s not the common, I’m sure you can find other parents out there with stories that make it clear that kids do indeed go through this same thing and come out somehow better for it. He’s your son, afterall, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have learned a lot from you about life. Find others who’ve been through this. If you don’t like *their* story, find another whose story you do like, and adapt their model and choices.
    Hugs,
    ~S

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    @Shephard, It may be time for me to go back to some of those sites I looked at way back at the beginning. I can’t imagine that it’s not typical, but you so often see kids that really rise above it. Maybe my expectations for this stage of his life are not realistic.

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  5. From what I know of your son and the challenges you’ve been through, I will echo others here by saying not to sell yourself short. You’ve done a great job, at least from this outsider’s POV.

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    @martymankins, Thanks. That means a lot. This parenthood crap is hard, yo. ;)

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  6. you callin my momma a failure? because i am all about the lath of least resistance, regardless of her trying to help me do otherwise.
    don’t be so hard on yourself.

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    @hello haha narf, I would never! It’s just that it’s going to be hard enough for him adn I worry about his future. Like a mom does.

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  7. path. path of least resistance.
    at least my momma taught me to admit my mistakes!

    [Reply]

    Megan Reply:

    @hello haha narf, She done all kinds of all right with you. xo

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