Wasn’t it the great Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?”
Well Al, call me insane.
And while you’re at it, call my imperfect parental brethren insane, too. After all, so many of us seem to make the same mistake over and over again – despite the fact that we get the same result.
That mistake? Continually doubting our kids. Even when they continue to prove us wrong by succeeding. Over and over again.
Maybe the imperfect system is just set up that way. It seems that from the moment our kids with differences are born, many of the books we pick up tell us what kids like ours won’t be able to do. And the hired guns or experts we bring in “to help” our kids only hurt them more by presenting them to us as numbers on an intelligence test. Or flat positions on a bell curve.
Before we know it, we start sipping the doubting Kool Aid… lowering our expectations…preparing for and expecting the worst.
I am no exception. There have been so many times throughout my two daughters’ lives when I just assumed they would fail. Come up short. Fall apart.
I felt that way when one was about to be screened for kindergarten.
“Oh well, I’ll just keep her back. She’ll just be the oldest kid in her class.”
I thought that when another was about to make her First Communion.
“Father forgive me because my daughter is about to sin and spit out the Communion wafer. She has sensory issues.”
And despite by erroneous predictions at these and so many other small and large milestones, I continued to doubt my kids at every turn.
“With her anxiety and math disability, she’ll never pass the state test required to get her diploma.”
“She’ll never be able to interview for a job on her own. She has poor eye contact.”
“She’ll never be able to drive a car with those visual spatial issues.”
“She could never live away at college. She’s never been away from home.”
“She might never find someone to love her with her quirks.”
Here’s the insane part, despite ALL these successes, I still doubt them. Just last week, I brought my 17-year-old daughter with sensory issues and anxiety disorder to the oral surgeon’s office to have her wisdom teeth removed. The insurance company wouldn’t pay to have anesthesia. Days before the surgery, she was in full blown panic mode. Going to the dentist was always difficult for her, but this would be more than she could handle.
When I brought her in, I was prepared for a full breakdown. But when the hygienist called her name, she quietly followed her inside. No tears, no protests, not even the usual desperate pleas for me to go with her.
She handled it like a champ.
There in that quiet dental office waiting room (a luxury that has alluded me in my parental dental career), while my daughter’s wisdom teeth were being extracted, I actually gained some wisdom: Maybe after 21 years of being a parent of a child with special needs, I should finally stop believing what I read in books or on test results, and start seeing what my children’s experiences have repeatedly shown me.
After all, wasn’t it the great Albert Einstein who also said, “The only source of knowledge is experience?”
You got that right Al.
Thank you thank you. I have to remember that with the experiences, you never really know what will go “wrong” or “right”. My daughter constantly surprises me… and succeeds! on the math test final exam, on the sleepover, on the participation in camp and counseling and worship services. There are so many bumps in the road its hard to notice that we are still moving forward. I am looking at your blog whenever I feel sad that my family doesn’t “measure up”. That I will be laughed at by another friend (or most likely family member) for leaving an event early, not showing up at the event at all, not cooking anything HOMEMADE for the event… It seems hard to explain to others that every hour of my day is “an event” I am trying to prepare for. The poor communication, the mood swings, the medicines, the doctor appointments… Thank you “shut up about” people. You remind me that I don’t have to explain my life t to anyone. And there are lots of people whose idea of a “perfect experience” is like mine. (imperfect but not super horrible!) And there are people out there who define success differently. people like you. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for this post. I will try to “”trust” the experience. Not all are things I can’t handle. Sometimes I may get a win! I don’t want to miss it bracing for the worst!
Wow! This post really hit home. My younger child has some special needs and sometimes I feel like I am in a constant state of mentally preparing for the worst possible outcome. I think things like “Will she be able to manage school? have friends? or (most importantly) become a completely independent individual?” It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things that aren’t where they should be (especially during those dreaded parent teacher conferences) and forget to focus on all the things our children can do. This post made me feel like I’m not alone (and is inspiring me to think more positively about the future, too) Thanks!