I was at MOPS today. (Mothers of Preschoolers for those of you who have not been consumed by the world of diaper changing and teething babies)
MOPS has been my saving grace every other Wednesday through the last few years.
I've needed some saving grace these last few years. Actually "some" is too small a portion. I've needed PLENTY.
These are my living room walls.
The Prince loves to bring people into the room and show off "his" pictures. He explains each one of them: "This is me with lobsters", "this is me in my new clothes", "this is me playing froggy"...
He is proud of these moments. He is proud of the memories.
That's part of why the pictures are up in mass quantity.
Well, that's the nice part of the truth.
But if I am looking to be brutally honest and transparent about my life, that's not the entire truth.
When the first few frames went up I was trying to make people believe that our lives were as beautiful and captivating as the pictures, all day, everyday. At the beginning it was innocent, like a bride who wears a little too much makeup on the wedding day to be extra pretty. And then one night, when crying about the misery and agony of my day it dawned on me that I was attempting to also fool
myself. I was resenting all those pictures. I hated those walls for a little while. I was angry at the life I wasn't truly living and the happiness I didn't really feel.
You see, life hasn't been the imaginary dream of marriage and parenthood I set out for. When I said "I Do" at twenty I ruled the world. I knew things that my elders were too stubborn to learn, I had an answer for everything and life was going to be brilliant. We would make lots of money off The Hubby's music and live a fabulous life and five years later we would be prepared and excited to have our ONE(two) child(ren).
My plan went perfectly until we had a tiff on our honeymoon (the horror), I didn't know how to cook anything other than sausages and rice and The Hubby was jobless. Then just after New Year's 2005 we found out we were preggers. And we were excited...
Nervous, overwhelmed and unprepared, but excited...
The Prince was born one week after our first anniversary. (Now that was a sexy first anniversary... I was so bloated I could hardly walk so we waddled around a mall, had dinner at The Keg and prayed that I wouldn't go into labour until AFTER we ate our steak).
The Prince was challenging...
Perfectly adorable and chubby and sweet, and ours... but challenging none the less (all I can say is THANK GOD FOR NOE and AUNTIES).
Fourteen months later we were decidedly pros and so planned to make sure that our precious, wonderful gifts from God would be two years apart. Because we could handle two?...
Well, the two years apart plan worked.
But the fabulous life began to completely fall to pieces.
The Prince became abundantly bewildering.
Meltdowns, sleeping problems, fearlessness (which is dangerous in small children and something that only Sir Richard Branson has the right to have), aggression, difficulty speaking, you name it we dealt with it.
Two Years and twenty days after The Prince was born came The Princess, with her own set of complications.
We almost lost her twice. Due to breathing problems. Terror does not express the depths of what we felt.
Only hours after she was born I was travelling in an ambulance with her and chasing the transport nurses through the halls of Sick Kids Hospital as she was rushed to the NICU.
Yet through all that turmoil and panic we saw God show up in ways we never fathomed.
And The Princess is fine today.
Following all those nail biting times was the worst winter of my life so far...
The Prince became un-parentable.
There is a word invented for what life was like with him.
And I became the worst mother in the world at times.
(Again, THANK GOD FOR GRANDPARENTS and AUNTIES)
It took four adults to raise him. Did you catch that?
I. said. FOUR.
To try and help him we learned a new way of living.
We now try to eat mostly organic. The kids have a dye-free diet.
We use homeopathy to treat illness. We even visit an amazing chiropractor weekly who has also been another one of those provisions from God I was mentioning.
IT FORCED US TO DO SOMETHING.
The Hubby and I went to parental counselling and sought advice from those wiser and more patient that we are. (And I was learning- however painfully - that I did NOT know everything. I know very little in fact.)
By November this year I was finished. I was tired and worn out. I had cried and yelled and begged God for something to change and whenever a change occurred it was gone within days.
I was Hopeless.
So we talked. Talked to teachers, talked to our family. We talked to social workers and talked to doctors.
And in December we were told the official assessment was that he had an Autism Spectrum Disorder and a diagnosis would only confirm that.
We didn't panic. We didn't fight the doctors. We didn't fight each
other. We finally had an answer. An answer as to why, out of dozens of mothers I met and talked with, was I the only one pushed so far, so much, so unendingly.
The Prince did not get easier. But our relationship and responses did. This made sense of all the chaos. This explained our struggle. And it gave us perspective.
I dreaded Christmas this year.
It meant LONG days at home. No break for school in the morning.
No peace of mind for me until Popops or Noe would intervene.
But again. As He always does, God showed up.
We were praying, we were more patient, we were eating right and adding supplements, and trying to learn all we could and somewhere in the mess of all that we met our son.
It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't lived it but until this past Christmas The Prince was lovable when he was sleeping. Or when he was having a gentle moment. Or when we'd been apart for a little while. We love The Prince, don't get me wrong, we would do anything for him but it is exhausting to show love when there is fear over everything... Fear of the kids being alone for a second, fear of The Prince doing something outrageously dangerous (like cutting an orange with a butcher knife- true story, scar to prove it), fear of another fight where biting and kicking would end up with me
frustrated in tears calling Noe and Popops to drive the 4km to help me. No these words cannot really express last year and all the years that led up to it.
Christmas was a treat.
We laughed and played and The Prince was different.
He was calm and settled.
And we soaked in the moments fully expecting it to be like our wall of photos. Just a snapshot in time, and then back to reality.
So when we met with more doctors we would tell of the change but it had only been a week, and they warned, and we knew, he could go backwards again.
But then it became two and three and by four weeks the developmental pediatrician was thinking that it may not be ASD and that we need to look at other options because this improvement was so drastic and wonderful that it could not be ignored in a diagnosis.
The Prince is charming and precious and a gift from God. (This time not said with sarcasm.)
I now understand the joys of being a stay-at-home mother.
I had resented it terribly and wished to be anywhere but at home, but now... well now I have the privilege of watching my kids play nicely and grow together. They are best friends. I love to see them figure out how to complete that puzzle that had eluded them, to build castles and play hide and seek, or to read them bedtime stories till my throat is raw from talking in different voices.
I LOVE being a mother.
Though I wish I could claim that my attitude changed my son, that's not true.
The Prince changing, changed me.
During the last five years it has often been impossible to see life morph into what has become, impossible to see who I was becoming, but now I see, in the midst of the pain, character was being built... in all of us.
At MOPS today a very special lady was talking about fashion, but first explained about how we can often be playing dress up and hiding what is really going on, who we really are...
My living room wall was a part of my dress up.
It was all a part of the illusion.
Yes there were some spectacularly beautiful times we had as a family over the last few years, (Thanksgiving day at Whittamore Farms, or sledding down our snow covered steps in the backyard, Canada day at the lake)
and yes I have felt the passionate love a mother has for her children but instead of facing the harsh reality of my own unhappiness I was taking pictures to mask the disappointment when I should have been trying to capture a memory.
Let's just say that's no longer the case. I'm now capturing life.
And you NEED to read the book A Million Miles In a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Seriously. Read it.