Seeking a place of refuge from my shame, I ran into my car and cried. Ironically, I was parked right next to some bikers who witnessed my weakest moment. Five minutes earlier I had been in the post office dealing with some of Katy’s difficult behavior. Parents of toddlers usually complain about standing in line with their little ones. Sure, they wiggle and squirm a bit- but to me that looks so easy. I spend most of my time getting out of line to rescue Katy from trouble. It’s enough to make me postpone my errands till I can count on someone to babysit.
After an eternity of waiting at the post office line (five minutes can seem to drag on forever), it was finally my turn to get helped. I let Katy go for a moment. When I turned to check on her, I discovered that she was poking buttons on a stamp machine. The problem was that there was a lady trying to use it. I ran to grab Katy and returned to the counter with some apologies. The clerk continued to help me and I let Katy go for half a minute. This time, I heard the woman scolding her. When I turned to look, the lady was very angry. She was down on Katy’s eye level, holding her hands tightly and reprimanding her for her behavior. Once again, I left the worker standing there as I ran to get Katy out of trouble. Not being able to get her way, my little tot began to have a meltdown on the floor.
I wished I could too.
Rushing through my errand, I swept Katy up in my arms and darted out of there- to cry in my car. So many confusing thoughts clouded my mind. I replayed the situation over and over in my head, knowing it was pointless to relive something that was only meant to live once. Life is not meant to be rewound.
Still, I tortured myself thinking about what should have happened. I though of the things I wanted to tell this woman. I wanted to tell her that Katy had gone through a very serious brain injury and that she was still recovering. I wanted to explain away how my daughter was developmentally younger than her physical age. I wished so terribly for this woman to know my story so that she would not be so angry. But that wouldn’t be right.
Telling a perfect stranger that my daughter had a brain injury would be wrong for three reasons: First, it would be a shameful thing to do to Katy in public (how would you feel if it were you being talked about?) Secondly, it would deny my faith. All I’ve been fighting for would be torn down by a simple statement made to a stranger for the sake of “saving face.” But more importantly, explaining away Katy’s behavior would be just another way of evading my responsibility.
Before I had children (and even during Katy’s first few months), I used to judge and criticize mother’s of uncontrolled children. I categorized them all in one group: irresponsible. Now, I found myself joining the clan that I had so harshly labeled. It never occurred to me that some of these might be mothers of children with unique needs. I never imagined that the simplest chores could be so draining and exhausting. I never noticed that each one of them had an individual story to tell.
If you were to talk to me a year ago, my story would have been entirely different. You would have heard me beaming with pride as I spoke of the recent first steps. If asked about my concerns, I would have told you that I worried about Katy’s weak sense of balance, lack of social skills and poor language comprehension. If pushed a little further, I would have told you how I secretly worried about how my two year old daughter didn’t even respond to her own name. She was finally walking, but there was so much ground to cover. Katy didn’t care to explore and very few things sparked her interest. Even when they did, her focus was so short that she would quickly abandon her task.
Well, here we are, one year later and a dozen light years ahead. Physically, Katy has conquered so much. She can spin, climb, twist, poke, pinch, throw and much more. Cognitively, she is also flourishing, especially these last few months. She not only responds when called, but is able to follow complicated instructions, understand abstract concepts, figure things out, and find creative ways to solve problems. She loves to sing and enjoys “reading” books. She is beginning to express herself in sign language and little sounds.
Katy is moving forward, and I need to lead the way. I once encouraged her to poke, prod and explore everything around her. We have reached our goal, now its time for me to set parameters and establish discipline. Even Katy is crying out for it. I can tell that it frightens her when she is out of control, but doesn’t know how to stop. I can teach her.
We’re leaving the baby days behind and walking through the door to childhood. Pampering and giving in to Katy’s every wish is yesterday’s way. Its time to set up order, discipline, instruction and guidance. There is no more room for excuses, and that feels good.