Parenting a child with special needs has taught me the journey is often times more important than the destination.
And more interesting, rewarding, fulfilling and one where you will be stretched, bended, tumbled, spun around, flung, chewed up and ultimately become all the better because of it.
The hubby and I made a purposeful decision to keep a loose itinerary.
We knew where we were headed and what the pit stops of each day were. But we kept the agenda loose enough so we could accommodate spontaneous detours along the way.
It was thanks to this intention that we made so many memorable memories.
Like taking a short hike to the top of picturesque Silver Falls in Wawa, where T threw rocks to the roaring river below.
Or taking a lunch and playground stop in small town White River, which we learned was the birth place of the real-life Winnie the Pooh.
Or stopping by many beautiful beaches along our gorgeous drive along Lake Superior like the white sand and clear water of Pancake Bay (below) and Katherine Cove (second image below).
And the real showstopper, Manitoulin Island, where we hiked a challenging 5km up the Cup and Saucer Trail and were rewarded with stunning cliff views.
When I first received T’s prognosis of at-risk fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, I felt like we were headed towards an inevitable destiny.
For an initial while, I became so fixated by it and I despaired over it.
Ultimately, I don’t know what the future will hold but I do know that T will become an adult. Instead of focusing on the end destination, I decided to focus on what is immediately ahead of me.
To be present and to embrace the journey and not get so fixated on the destination.
I embraced the detours.
And believe me, as a parent of a child with great potential and special needs, there will be many detours. Some you plan, some that are thrown at you without notice that you have to deal with.
Through the detours – planned and unplanned – the hubby and I met wonderful medical experts, service and therapy providers, teachers and early childhood educators that cared and made a difference.
We found a strength and a determination that we didn’t know we had.
We also had many moments of great frustration. Akin to running into a dead end on a hike. And annoyances. Akin to realizing you forgot bug spray and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.
But you can get through them and you will push through every single one of them. Some moments, you emerge triumphant. Some moments, you’re so winded and are just glad that it’s over with.
And eventually, you get to your destination.
Like the top of a hill with a stunning cliff view. And you forget for a moment how hard it was to get up there.
And you take it all in. And you feel grateful for every step, every mile driven, the good, the bad, the annoying and the downright difficult that took you to that moment.
As a parent, my job is to help guide T through his life’s journey. Teach him the skills and give him the tools he will need to find his way. Clear the path for him, keep him from falling off a cliff or stepping into poison ivy, and help him when he is unable to help himself.
But it’s also my job to have the confidence and faith to give him the space to find his way.
This roadtrip showed me a kid who has tremendous heart, curiousity, a love for adventure, determination, an interest in helping himself, a need to lead the way.
He hiked some challenging trails and made it on his own. And he asked for help when he was stuck.
Perhaps I’m being too idealistic and still glowing from vacation buzz, but I can’t help but draw parallels between the hikes and detours we took with the longer hike of life we are taking with T.
There will be – there already are – twists, turns, uphills and downhills along the way. But T will, one way or another, make it to his destination. At his own time, pace and terms.
PS. That ATV at the top picture was not ours. We just took a picture with T next to it. Maybe when he’s older one day!