My kid has the best parents in the world. Yep, just one of our brood of four hit the parental jackpot.
The other three fourths of our offspring are saddled with parents who could be described as typically decent, with just about an equal number of parenting hits and misses to average things out.
These three kids are, in politically correct terms, “typically developing” or “neurotypical.” In layman’s terms, they are just normal kids.
The kid with the totally awesome parents is a kid with special needs. His specialness even has a label to go along with it. In fact, he is so special; he has a whole alphabet soup of labels to go through life with.
We’re not a big fans of dwelling on the labels, though. To us, those labels start to become a long list of characteristics that read like excuses to not help your kid reach his highest potential. Instead, we like to look at the current challenges and do our best to help him to achieve his best.
Let me tell you, some of those challenges have been real humdingers. Part of this child’s specialness made him extremely agoraphobic and highly sensitive to noise, so much so that going to a simple restaurant or grocery store was enough torture to cause him to curl into a fetal position or hide in the dark to recover. A typical child’s birthday party? Not happening. An unequaled rigidity in schedule, food, clothing, and just about every aspect of life was also a part of the package. Everything needed to be anticipated. Nothing could be a surprise and nothing could change unexpectedly. Any tiny change would erupt a cascade of unending emotional turmoil.
Luckily for us, all of these “challenges” weren’t dropped in our lap all at once when this child joined our family. In fact, he was a fairly easy baby, what with his dogged desire for schedule, and all. As traveling had always been a part of our family, we continued to travel with no major issues, at first. Our resolve to pursue a family vision of travel was severely tested though when all of these challenges came kicking and screaming to the forefront.
After all, if we couldn’t even successfully navigate the grocery store, could we even consider navigating a crowded airport, getting on a plane, staying in an unfamiliar hotel? That would certainly be impossible. This is when being young and
stupid idealistic actually paid off. We just weren’t willing to accept limitations and we kept traveling.
Traveling took on a whole new dimension for us, though. Any airplane ride meant that one parent would have to sit with this child and calmly whisper reassuring words in his ear for every minute of the flight. A three hour plane ride meant three hours of verbally talking him down from the ledge of anxiety and meltdown. Whether or not his ears would pop on decent was the least of our worries. I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that half the time I felt like it just wasn’t worth it and half the time I was kicking myself for being so selfish. After all, I was the one who wanted to travel and it was stretching my son to his limits. Often, I felt sorry for this poor boy and wondered why he hadn’t been fortunate enough to have parents that were content just to stay put. Not looking like parents of the year right now, are we?
Now that we are on the other side of that storm, I can say with confidence that stretching my son to his limits was exactly what he needed. He didn’t need to be hidden away in the safety of his home, he needed an experience that would force him to face his fears and grow. Traveling was the ticket to that opportunity. I wish I could take credit for that, saying that I knew all along that we were doing the best thing for him and that we were pursuing it with intention. But, I can’t. We were then, like now, just taking one day at a time, hoping that we didn’t make too many mistakes.
What will never be a mistake is that this child needed us and we needed him; we were the perfect parents for him. This special child was divinely placed with two parents whose insatiable wanderlust would keep him constantly trying new things, encountering new experiences, and staring down fears. Traveling stretched him to his very limits and he busted through those limits and kept on going. Traveling proved to be better than any therapy money could buy.
Long ago we conquered the grocery store and the airport and the airplane ride and the foreign country. Traveling and life in general, has far less turbulence these days. There is still some uncertainty for a couple of days when we reach a new place, and there is always the concern of finding familiar food, but that gives us something to keep working towards-one step at a time, one trip at a time, we will keep conquering fears and shattering limits.