I did a guest post, of sorts, the other day here on Steph's Two Girls. A couple of people commented on my use of the phrase 'extreme parenting', and when I began to think of how to reply, I decided I might as well put it in a blog post. So here you go.
Yes, calling what I do "extreme parenting" kind of makes it sound like more fun than it is. But sometimes it's all about spin. And sometimes you have to doctor that spin.
I have a choice.
I can think things like "poor me, poor us, my poor little girl. who can help us? we deserve help. other people have it better. somebody ought to do something. this is hard. this isn't fair" etcetera and so forth. I'd probably dress up the sentiments to sound more grown-up and rational, but the underlying theme would still be the same.
Or I can hold onto my outlook on life as being one great adventure, and tell myself "We can do this."
My children are watching me live, and I need to make sure I model how I want them to approach life. It's going to be hard, and it's going to be long, and I hope they will let it be awesome.
So I doctor the spin. I need that spin. My Dad used to tell me "Non illegitimus carborundum - Don't let the bastards grind you down." If I wasn't allergic to tattoo ink, I'd get that inked on so I wouldn't forget. (Yes, I know it's not real Latin.) Sometimes those 'bastards' are just the impartial, indiscriminate, unavoidable circumstances of life. I won't let them grind me down.
Right now our life is pretty good. Sheer tiredness is my main foe at present, but I am slowly winning against it with some well-played strategy. But in any good adventure there is always the part where it looks like the hero/heroine might not get up again, might not get out alive, like the odds are stacked too high. We've been there. I hope we never go there again, but probably the path of our adventure will one day lead us to some new challenge that seems unsurmountable, or through some deep, dark passage that we have to blindly feel our way through. Life just is like that.
But adventure without the hard bits wouldn't be an adventure, would it? Just like extreme sports wouldn't be extreme without the risk.
Sometimes any kind of parenting is kind of like an extreme sport, in that once you've started, there's no turning back. Once you've jumped out of the airplane, there's no climbing back in. You can pull the 'chute sooner or later, but you're still going to have to ride out the landing. Once you get up the mountain, you've got to get back down again, one way or another.
In almost any kind of sport, you can hit that point where you'd really rather quit. It might feel, just for a moment, like it would be easier to admit defeat, tell yourself you've done a pretty good job, maybe even done more than you thought you could, and go for a much-needed hot shower. Only you don't, because you would know that you hadn't really given it your all.
We can reach that point in any relationship. Relationships take work, and parenting is, at its heart, a relationship. One we not only can't back out of, but one that we don't cut corners on. So we parents push through the uncertainty, the lack of support, the tiredness, and we research, we advocate, we teach ourselves new skills and new strategies and new ways of being so that we can be the heroes and heroines our children need as they learn to be the heroes and heroines of their own stories.
Sometimes I lack confidence in myself. Sometimes I lack resources or support. But sometimes putting a brave face on things can make us feel brave.
I've jumped out of airplanes. I've strapped a slippery board to my feet and thrown myself down a mountainside. I've defied gravity with two wheels and I've risked my neck at high speed on four legs. I've jumped off of cliffs and slid down guy-wires and other things my mother shouldn't know about. I've even faced bears and hypothermia just for fun.
Sometimes I need to remind myself that I have done these things; that I can do these things. I can do hard things. I can do it afraid. Life can be hard, but I can do it.
Why do people do this stuff? It does sound a little crazy to seek out danger just for fun. I guess it's for the rush that comes with not dying or being horribly maimed. For myself, doing those things was more about the discipline of doing hard things, and also to keep myself in mind of the fact that actually, life on this world is fraught with danger and therefore doubly precious. But still there is always that rush when the bear doesn't eat you and you don't die.
Back when I used to work with other people's children (some of them grown-up children), I used to jump out of bed every morning filled with excitement for the day. Apart from the joy of getting to spend time with my students, it was such a privilege to be a part of their stories. There was always the possibility of some exciting victory, and I would get to see it! It was like the rush of facing danger and being still alive: She was afraid, and she did it! He said a word! - Twice!! Doctors said he wouldn't see his 3rd birthday, and there he is, doing what he dreams of! And I was there! It was so amazing to get to be a part of such stories.
Now I get to do that with my own children. I admit, I more often crawl out of bed toward my cup of tea and pry my eyes open with my fingers than jump out of bed with excitement, but that's just down to pure physical tiredness. It is such a privilege to be a part of their stories every day, and to be on hand to witness their victories.
Yes, it is hard to be the parent of a child with additional needs. It's hard, and it's full-on, and it's full-time. But it still is an awesome adventure.