I believe the important things in life have been learned from my child.
The first thing I learned from my child was to “never say never.” In my early thirties, after several years of trying to conceive, I was told by my doctor that I could not have children. I briefly considered adoption but chose instead to engross myself in my career and reconciled myself to being childless. Imagine my surprise, when at the age of 40, I discovered I was pregnant. Never say never.
The second thing I learned from my child was to “expect the unexpected.” After a high-risk pregnancy, my son, Will, was delivered prematurely on December 20, 2000. After what seemed to be an uneventful delivery of a healthy baby, Will began to turn blue and was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit and hooked up to a respirator. For the first week of his life, I was unable to touch him because of the medication he was receiving to keep him from attempting to breathe on his own. Leaving the hospital on Christmas Eve without my baby was certainly not the scenario I had rehearsed in my mind during my pregnancy. As Will developed, it became clear he was not meeting developmental milestones on time. He could not perform tasks that other children his age could perform effortlessly. He struggled with both academic and social skills. After extensive testing and evaluation, Will was diagnosed with a multitude of developmental delays including an autism spectrum disorder; a diagnosis for which I was totally unprepared. Expect the Unexpected.
The third thing I learned from my child was “patience is a virtue.” Even as a child, “patient” was not a word anyone had ever used to describe me. Recently, Will and I were having our hair cut while sitting in adjacent chairs at the salon. He finished his hair cut first and after trying to climb into my lap numerous times only to be told no, he stood beside me asking the same questions repeatedly. After observing our exchange for quite some time, my stylist remarked how patient I had been with Will and how other parents would not have been nearly as patient. I thanked the stylist for her compliment and couldn’t help smiling all the way home knowing I had finally grasped a concept that had eluded me for the first 40 years of my life. Patience is often the only way I keep my sanity and it truly is a virtue.
The last and most important thing I learned from my child was “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” The first time Will came home from school and told me that some boy at school said he was retarded, I struggled for the right words to say to my son to make the hurt go away. My struggle was short lived because Will immediately proceeded to tell me with absolute certainty that he was not retarded and that the boy was just mean. Unfortunately, this scenario has repeated itself on many occasions but Will has never wavered in his belief that he is just like all of the other children at his school and can do everything they can do. Will has not allowed words to hurt him.
Yes, I truly believe that the important things in life have been learned from my child. At the end of a difficult day when I feel I have somehow failed my child, Will looks at me with his big brown eyes and says “I love you mommy.” At that moment, I realize there are so many more important lessons I can learn from my child.
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