“Life happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon
Whether a mother or father has one child or five, whether their sons and daughters are “typically developing” or have a disAbility, in our culture, we tend to share a certain parenting pitfall: Expectations.
When a parent’s child is diagnosed with autism or any disAbility, it’s important to grieve. Ditto: when anything traumatic (or small) happens to anyone in life. Do get down and wallow in the emotions of loss. Sob, gnash, punch the air. Deal with the dirty. That’s how we move on with our lives, by first experiencing all the normal emotions of the real and healthy process of moving through loss. (Set a time limit: say, six months. Seek help at any point, but especially if grief is immobilizing and lasts longer than that time span.)
Then, it’s important to realize that what you have lost is not your child (in the case of learning that your child has a diagnosis). What you have lost is not (fill in the blank,) but, rather, your expectations.
You see, we set ourselves up for misery and more grief in our lives with our carefully crafted expectations of how things will or even must be. Beatles’ icon John Lennon got it right when he crooned in “Beautiful Boy,” about his son Sean, that life happens when we are making plans. None of us can truly see over the horizon even from one moment to the next into a future that is not yet born. Parenting a daughter with significant special needs, I’ve had to learn and continue to learn that my life is richest and best lived by planting myself in this one now moment. When life begins to overwhelm, I challenge myself to make the best choice within this moment to propel me to the next. I am at greatest peace when I surrender my white-knuckled clench hold on how I expect things to turn out–in any situation big or small.
Breathe. And, release.
photo credit: Ashley Hylbert Photography
Author, speaker and now parent of a 20-year-old, Leisa A. Hammett continues to learn to “show up and be shown” one now moment to the next as she juggles the many balls of her creative life, including founding a non-profit social enterprise for adult artists with and without disAbilities to–in community–create, exhibit and sell their work. She welcomes additional jugglers to her current act. (Contact her via LeisaHammett.com to learn how to be involved with Art-TankNashville.)