Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I read a very sweet and heartfelt ode to family and childhood this morning.  It is incredible to think about childhood and family as a mold. It made me realize, yet again, how very blessed I am to have the family I have.

I come from a huge, Irish, Catholic family. Both my parents come from large, tight, knit families. They are different. 

My Mom's side are very pragmatic. When my husband met them, he was startled by what he perceived initially as indifference. You cannot complain to these people! They have no sympathy! I don't even remember what the complaint was, but one Aunt rubbed her finger and thumb together and smiled. "It's the world's smallest violin playing the world's saddest song, just for you." 

Everyone laughed and it might have felt harsh. But what happened next was typical. Everyone, all at once, asked what could be done. What can you do? What can we do? How can we fix this? They are full of love and caring. They have empathy. They are strong and not afraid of emotion. They will not cave in front of a problem. And they won't let you cave either. They are not nosy, gossipy, pushy types. You won't hear them blabbing your problems to anyone who will listen. They will talk to you. And it will not be critical, but it will not be passive either. You are going to hash out solutions. 

Dad's family is loud. The Thanksgiving table is boisterous and perhaps hard to follow. It is not out of the ordinary to have several heated discussions going on simultaneously. Politics, religion, literature, history. Quite a number of them are or have been activists, so comparing jail stories is not as uncommon as you might guess on meeting the crowd.

Again, my dear husband learned by fire. It was election season. You might think that if you put a group of similarly raised people with similar values in a room that political discussion would be a merry game of back-patting. Not so, in this family. It was loud. Vehement disagreements based and similar foundations made the discussion exciting and fast paced. 

"Well, since we all agree that... it is obvious that..." 
"It is not obvious at all. That's a silly conclusion. Your mistake was..."

The Church this and the party that. Everything is evident. Of course.

"So, Josh, what do you think?"


Poor man. But he knew how to play the game. He chose a politician and made a relatively innocuous, but not obvious, observation. And the discussion moved on quickly with explosions. 

At the end of the party, everyone hugs. We all miss each other. What fun! What a good party! As long as there is argument and wine, everyone is happy.

Both sides sing. There is always music. Both sides drink. There is always wine. I could go on and on about how amazing my family is. They are tough, but empathetic. Brilliant and opinionated, but not judgmental. And Irish.


Awesome in that great and terrible sense when it suddenly dawns on me: I am a grown up now. I am a mom and I have kids.  If family and childhood are a mold, I am as much a shaper as a shape. And that is terrifying. That is some measuring stick I am holding. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winter network

Special needs networks are awesome. We depend on each other for help and advice. We lean and love and ask and emote. We get to know each other and each other's kids, even when we only actually meet a few of them. Just like in real life, you don't want to admit that you have favorites, but sometimes a kid just steals your heart and you cannot explain why. You meet silent heroes, who just quietly help whoever needs help. You meet loud advocates. You meet loving families working aggressively to find normal and you meet crazy, loving families rejecting any semblance of normal. We admire little heroes. I have hundreds of amazing acquaintances and a few close friends from these networks.

But it is not all happy optimism, advocacy, and empathy. A disproportionate number of these parents suffer from anxiety and depression.

And at this time of year, it is especially hard. The kids are sick. Not all of them at once, but for the past several weeks, not a day has gone by without one of our buddies sick in the hospital. And even those of us whose kids are not currently sick, we are worrying too. Is that cough a first sign? Dry air? My sweetie, who healthy has more snot than most kids, is especially boogery. It doesn't gross me out, but it worries me. Can she keep her airway open? Do I need to treat this? 

We heard the news about the flu shot before you. We knew that it was going to be a bad year. That kind of information makes rounds in these circles long before it is mainstream news. 

This is the time of year when all the sudden, special needs networks take their toll. We pay in tears. We are tired. We are worried. Our friends are tired and worried. We work hard to stay empathetic. We open our hearts. 

Sometimes I wonder, are my out-of-network friends sick of my sick posts on Facebook?  I don't share every story, only a small few.  Still, "Pray for my friend whose kiddo is dangerously ill," has become a regular feature on my Facebook page. 

Today I am praying for the parents.Thank you for all the support and prayer and love you have offered.  Thank you for bravely continuing to offer empathy, even when it hurts. We will get through these months. Spring and sunshine are on their way.