“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”– Mother Teresa
On the first Saturday afternoon of January, my hubby, T and I were huddled in the family room. I saw the car pull up and I loudly announced, “Grammy and Dad Dad are here.” Our little one charged excitedly to the door and opened it. He bounced excitedly when he saw them coming up the stairs. T threw himself onto them for a big hug.
We had just spent a week out East with my hubby’s parents to celebrate Christmas. It hadn’t been a week since we returned home when his parents were making their way down South for the winter and they made a stop by our home and unexpectedly asked if they could stay the night. We couldn’t hang out with them as we had plans with friends, so they asked, “Did you want us to babysit and give you the night off?”
My hubby and I tried hard to respond with a serious face. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” I could not contain my giddy smile. “We really appreciate it!” An hour later, we were in such a rush to leave that I don’t think I gave T a proper hug, in case his grandparents changed their minds!
Kidding aside, my hubby and I are blessed to have strong supports from our family. Parenting in itself is already hard and when you layer on additional challenging needs, it takes on another level of difficulty. Although we don’t take advantage of our family and only receive babysitting offers on a very limited basis, that rare night off goes a long way towards recharging and self care!
My hubby’s parents are now in their late 60s and live two provinces away. We spend Christmas with them every other year and visit them every summer. My mom turns 80 in the coming year and my father passed away in 2008 and would’ve been 97 this year. I often wish he got to meet his grandson, because he would’ve been so amused by his exuberance.
When we first adopted T, we invited our parents to attend a Children’s Aid Society workshop that talked about children with FASD. We had not yet received T’s prognosis at this time, but we felt it was important for the family to understand the possibility, given what we knew about his history. The concept of FASD – and its consequences – did not really land with our parents nor did it with my hubby and I. But over the years, as some of the anticipated behaviours manifested, it provided teachable moments for all of us and with our larger family.
Just as we struggled to understand and learned to adjust our expectations and approach to parenting T, it’s been interesting – and inspiring – to see our parents adapt. When T has a tantrum or a full blown meltdown, our parents don’t put up with it. When T recently picked up bad language from the older kids on the school bus, our parents were also not amused. They tried in their own way to talk to and discipline T.
And often, my hubby and I try to explain to them that traditional forms of discipline do not work with T and that it requires a different approach. We are all learning together. But what my hubby and I appreciate is that despite the challenges, our parents have unconditional love for T and a willingness to learn, to support and to work together.
And likewise, T loves his Grammy and “Dad Dad” as he calls my hubby’s father – and his “Ama,” my mom. When they call, he rushes to our sides to say hello and chat with them.
So really, what more could we ask for in the grand scheme?
Despite how it sounds, we actually love spending time with our little one! When we were in Mexico last year, our resort had daycare services and despite saying we’d drop him off for half a day or an evening, we did not once take advantage of it! Not because we were worried or being helicopter parents, but we genuinely love hanging out and experiencing new things – like his first resort experience – with him. And we had so much fun, he still talks and asks about when we’re going back.
But sometimes, as a parent – special needs child or not – you can easily let it consume your identity. While we wouldn’t just leave T with anyone, we have to remember to enjoy the opportunities that we get to have child free time. Because sadly, not all parents in similar situations that we are in are as fortunate to have these supports for respite.
And on this Saturday evening, we did have fun! It was a joy getting together with my grade school friends. 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of when we graduated from high school; 25 years since junior high graduation. And it was nice to be able to fully be present and to sit, eat and chat with friends – without taking turns running around after T.
Our in laws got up and left the next morning before 8. My hubby, T and I were still in bed and we woke T up to say goodbye. He’s often hard to wake up, but got up instantly when we told him his grandparents were leaving and he wanted to give them the biggest hugs.
“Can you come back next week?” he asked them. And they told him they’ll be back in the Spring to see and to play with him again.
T stood at the window and waved at them as their car backed out of our driveway and drove off; a bittersweet smile on his face.