Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what the future will be like for our son. Like most parents, we dream of a good education, a good job, family and joy in life for our children. We certainly had that in mind. When he was younger we even dreamed of a football career based on his build and size; maybe make the NFL, take care of his parents… Even the BC Lions coach when our son was 4 took one look at him and said, “Call me when you’re 19.” But that’s not likely to happen when your child doesn’t do well at competitive sport and is tender hearted. But we can dream! (Well, I dreamed that for him. My wife… not so much; especially after watching the movie, Concussion.)
Sadly, dreams and reality are not always in the same hemisphere for our son. And while I have fully accepted that, I still inwardly hope and pray for that miracle breakthrough. Instead, we usually get breakdowns. A couple of weeks ago, a planned med change went awry and it took a little while to recover. “We think your son should stay at home for the next couple of days” was the decision from the school – not made lightly, I might add, and we as a family agreed it was best for everybody. We even had a long, large group meeting with school, counsellors, psychiatrist and others to talk it through where a poignant question was asked, “What is the IEP (Individual Education Plan) goal? Is it eventually a full Dogwood or just school completion?” It was a setback just when things seemed like they were progressing. And it made me wonder all over again whether the goal of parenting would ever be accomplished.
In a previous post, I reflected on the question of the goal of parenting posed by our son’s current psychiatrist the first time we met. My answer was, “To raise a child that can cope in this world.” He was surprised by my answer and told me in his opinion I was correct. Too many people focus on success, happiness, love, and what have you. I just want my son to survive in the world on his own. To be able to cope. To not be bullied, taunted, profiled, or unemployable. We’re working on making that happen and getting good wrap around support for the journey, but I still worry sometimes. And sometimes I worry a lot. And sometimes I just enjoy the moment, lost in the thought of the love I have for him.
Don’t get me wrong; Saying I worry doesn’t mean he doesn’t have great moments that make us proud in the here and now. The other day we were beaming when another parent of a child in his school told us, “There aren’t many kids at school that will acknowledge my son, but yours always does.” Heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once. Heartbreaking for the other parent whose son has Down’s Syndrome and doesn’t have a lot of playmates at school. Heartwarming because our son is tenderhearted and compassionate and a friend to anyone without judgment. Definitely not a football player. Not even The Blindside kind of football player with the protective instinct. (Those who know our son, I know you know what I mean when I say that!) Today he participated in the district track and field meet and coped with it very well. We’re proud of the effort he gave. And as many have pointed out, our son is sharp, quick witted, hilarious and fun to be around. And those are true a lot of the time. Just not all of the time. Every now and then we get to see Mr. Hyde. And coming this summer when we resume the attempt at a med change, we may see more of Mr. Hyde than we would like. Then again, the med change might be the best thing to happen. We won’t know until we get there.
I still worry about the future. Is that wrong? I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t trust God, or I don’t think we’re getting the help we need, or I don’t think he will ever learn to cope; I just worry. I think that’s every parent’s prerogative. And it’s every parent’s right too.