Sunday, July 18, 2010

Learning, Growing, and "Oh Crap" Moments

My life, like yours I'm sure, has a lot of "Oh Crap" moments. For me these include, but are not limited to:

Oh Crap, we're supposed to be at the doctor's office in 10 minutes and I can't remember where I put Kaitlyn.

Oh Crap, the 3 DVDs I checked out from the library were due back a week ago so now I owe $21. $%#!& (we finance a LOT of new books for the library. You can thank us any time. Monetary acts of gratitude would be appreciated)

Oh Crap, the car registration was due 3 months ago and there's a cop right behind me. (just FYI, quickly pulling into Subway under the guise of getting a Diet Coke will not fool police officers. They will know you had an Oh Crap moment and were trying to get away from them and they will give you a ticket anyway)

Oh Crap, the carpet cleaners will be here in an hour. (this should be self-explanatory)

And one final moment, probably my least favorite of all:

Oh Crap, I think I'm on the verge of "learning" and "growing," and this is gonna hurt.

For some reason known only to the Big Guy up above, I have not yet reached the point where I don't need any more self-improvement opportunities. I know, I know... it's hard for me to believe too, but I promise it's the truth. On occasion, when my life seems to be swimming along just fine (or at least when I'm clinging to some floating garbage that is heping me keep my head above water while the storm is raging around me), He will decide to have some fun and throw in a bonus surprise. Sometimes the surprise is something awesome like a cool water cannon that lets me sneak up on my husband and soak him with icy cold water while he's relaxing in the sun. Usually though it's something more like one of those jellyfish that don't kill or maim but sting you and cause horrible pain until you finally give in and pee on yourself to relieve the agony.

So in this "swimming pool of life," I have been stung by that dang jellyfish more times than I can count. Definitely enough times that it has caused permanent swelling on my hiney (oh yes it is TOO swelling caused by jellyfish stings. What exactly are you implying?). And I'm starting to figure out that no matter how many times I get stung, I will never be done. As long as I'm still swimming, the jellyfish will keep on a-comin'.

Wow. That was profound. Woot!

The hardest of these learning, growing, stinging Oh Crap moments are those that revolve around my children. See, right about the time you hear the words, "There may be a problem with your child. We need to do more tests to be sure," you are catapulted headfirst into a giant sea of Oh Crap. Any ideas you may have had about your and your child's future are instantly vaporized and replaced with a great big lump of Nothing. Then, as your child grows, the Oh Crap moments come and that lump of Nothing slowly fills with Something. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what Something is, because it's different for everyone. But it's always interesting, and it's almost never what you had planned.

Now I know some of you are saying, "But that's the same with every child! You never know what's going to happen, and even typical children don't do the stuff you had planned for them!" Yes, this is true. However, the difference is of degree. For example, as the parent of a typical child you may have planned for your firstborn to be a rocket scientist. Instead, he decides to dink around in high school, drop out completely, and become a game tester for Nintendo while living in a basement apartment with a roommate named Pooper. Not exactly what you had planned, and incredibly aggravating and heartbreaking. I do not deny that this is painful and frustrating and brings plenty of Oh Crap moments in and of itself.

Contrast, however, the parent of a child with special needs. You had the same plan for your child: Rocket scientist. But instead of a gradual realization that your child will do what he wants, not what you want; you are immediately forced to confront your greatest fear: Your child may not be capable of working as a table cleaner at Wendy's, let alone buying out Bill Gates and forcing him to use nothing but Apple products for the rest of his life. Oh Crap. Instead of worrying that your child is dinking around in school, you worry that you are destroying any chance at a productive future for your child because you can't find him an appropriate education since nothing offered through the public education system fits his needs. Oh Crap. Instead of agonizing because your child is dropping out, you agonize because your child has missed so many days of school due to doctor's appointments, illnesses, and various other Oh Crap moments that he is frustrated with his work, hates school, and may have to be held back and not allowed to continue on with his classmates. Instead of fuming because your child is molding over in his best friend's dark, dank basement, you are slowly realizing that this child may never be able to live on his own; that instead of having a wife and kids (or a guitar and a band named Port-a-Potty), he will live in your basement and be cared for by you for the rest of his life.

Oh Crap.

Personally, I think I'd rather deal with option 1. Because when it comes down to it, even if your child isn't doing what you had planned, at least he is out on his own, and you are afforded some blessed relief from the constant day-to-day tedium that is parenting.

Yes, I adore my children and if they aren't capable of living independently, I will gladly provide them with everything they need for the rest of my life. But if I'm being honest, it won't be my first choice of things to do with my golden years.

We have come to realize that the worst Oh Crap moments happen about twice a year. Right about every six months we can expect our little jellyfish friend to pay us a visit in the form of a new and completely unexpected challenge. Sometimes it involves the health and welfare of our children, and sometimes it is designed to help us deal with the challenges that are to come. We never know what it will be, but we do know that it will help us to learn, help us to grow, and will be more painful than we ever expected.

And in the end, after the pain has subsided, we will discover that we are stronger, smarter, and more capable of handling the next Oh Crap moment that comes along.



  1. Oh, crap, I soooo get it. My biggest fear--what if we (Mom and Dad) die fairly young and our little guy is not able to support himself.....sigh.

  2. My biggest Oh Crap moment: What if my daughter's blood sugar gets too low in the middle of the night, and she never wakes up? Steph, thanks for being so honest with your feelings. I find myself trying to go through day to day life, settling in with the idea that my daughter has a life threatening disease. Administering insulin and checking blood sugars becomes normal and routine and then she'll get really sick with something insignificant to parents of "regular" kids like tonsilitis and it takes me back to ground zero (the day she was diagnosed), when I realize that something as benign as this can be life threatening to her. I appreciate that there are other people out there that can relate to how huge a responsibility it is to raise a child with special needs or a disease without a cure. I've had to force myself to live within the moment and not to think to far into the future and the possibilities that may be looming. I always hope for the best, but in the back of my mind always expect the worst. Sometimes, I get depressed when I just can't leave town on the drop of a dime like "normal" couples do, because it's hard to expect people to administer shots, check for low blood sugars, and count on the fact that they will check her blood sugar at 1:00 a.m. to make sure she'll be o.k. through the night. But I know God doesn't give us anything we can't handle and obviously he must have a lot of faith in us to entrust us with these special children. He must also be confident in our strength and character to ensure they receive all the support and care they deserve. This is why I can continue to hope for the best.

  3. Nanette - I live in constant fear of that very thing. With only 2 kiddos, and with both of them having special challenges, I worry so much about what will happen to them after we pass on. In fact, I have to block it at times because it's just too hard to deal with. Eat that elephant bite by bite, I guess.

    b@bee-d()ll, your post brought tears to my eyes. My daughter has a problem with low blood sugar, and I worry so much about what would happen if it dropped in the middle of the night. It doesn't sound like it's as severe as your daughter's problem, and I'm sorry for what you have to deal with. Thank you for posting.

  4. I love you Stephanie. You make me laugh and I truly hope you don't take this wrong but you always have a way of making me very grateful for my own problems. Thank You!