An Unexpected Trap

On August 7, 2011, in Julia's Journey, Life, Personal, by Chris

It fell just a tiny bit more into place just the other day. The reality of what is before us came a little bit more into focus. It started innocently enough – I was picking up Julia from daycare. 4:30pm is the time when all of the parents converge and the room is always a bustle of activity as the day comes to a close.

One of her playmates (I’ll call her Emma) was born just a week or two after Julia. It’s so cute to see them interact the way they do – sitting on the floor and looking at each other in wonder, sharing a toy or a book under the watchful eye of Miss Carla or Miss Tia. I don’t know if Emma and Julia will be friends forever, but the daycare workers say they are “BFFs”.

I was loading Julia into her car seat and Emma’s mom came in to pick her up. “Do you want to show Mr. Chris your new trick, Emma?” she asked. It took a little encouragement, but it wasn’t long before Emma popped out of her sitting position and started crawling toward her mom. It was amazing to see and we celebrated Emma’s achievement together. It had been less than a week since she had started and it apparently came almost out of nowhere.

I looked at Julia as she sat grinning and cooing in her car seat and it hit me.

Julia’s not anywhere close to crawling.

She’s getting passed up by kids younger than her.

Her developmental delays are becoming a little more evident.

For all of her progress, Julia still has Down Syndrome and there are realities that have yet to unfold. And there is no way on God’s green earth that we are going to be able to avoid it.

Needless to say, it was a quiet ride home.

But let me pause for just a minute and tell you that I love my kid and she is an absolute delight. This tale ends well, but it takes a minute to get there. Okay – back to the story.

I can get pretty quiet when there’s something churning in my head; and I’ve had to learn to work hard to articulate it before it gets displaced into something else. The household suffers when my pensiveness and sometimes melancholia gets twisted round and expressed in my frustration with something totally unrelated.

I walked into the house with Julia; and as quickly as I could, I choked out what was bothering me. Jocelyn is very intuitive and could tell there was a something going on within minutes, so there’s no way I would have hidden it for long.

“Emma started crawling.” It came out like I was announcing that the car was going to need transmission work.

“I know,” she replied, “I saw her dad in town today and he mentioned it. I thought it was great news since kids with Down Syndrome are visual learners and it will be good for Julia to watch Emma crawling.”

“Yeah. That’s a good way of looking at it.”

One piece of news – two reactions. Glass half empty – glass half full. But what was it that got me in that funk so quickly? Granted, I can have kind of an “Eeyore” outlook sometimes. But if we set that aside for a moment, I’m afraid I got caught up in something that plagues all of us at one time or another.

Bottom line, I got caught in the comparison trap. Their kid is crawling – mine isn’t. Their kid is walking – mine isn’t. Their kid is doing long division and made the traveling team and just discovered a new planet between Uranus and Neptune… You get the picture.

I mourned a little death that afternoon; but it wasn’t a person or a relationship that passed away. It was the expectation I had unconsciously put on Julia that had no business being there in the first place.

Leadership consultant Marcus Buckingham once observed that the greatest joy and the greatest challenge in life is not wanting to be someone else. I say the greatest joy and the greatest challenge in parenting is wanting God’s dreams for your kid and leaving yours at the side of the road – no matter how redeeming you think they are.

It’s true, I celebrated with Emma’s mom at the new development; but for just a moment as I looked down at my precious little girl, I felt the twinge – okay, the stab – of my expectations coming a little more in line with reality. And the reality is that Julia will crawl one day. Just not today.

She will even walk and someday know joy and elation – and feel the sting of betrayal and disappointment that I cannot shield her from as much as I want to. In the end, though, I have to help her to live her life to its fullest potential and not expect her to live mine.

Jocelyn and I said at the outset of this adventure that we need to let God and Julia define Julia. The afternoon surprise of another kid’s milestone was, for me, just another necessary exercise of letting go and loving my little girl right where she is.

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2 Responses to An Unexpected Trap

  1. Carrie Minor says:

    That is such a normal reaction. It brought back such memories as I read this. Memories of the same feelings as I watched Mitchell’s peers pass him by. There will be a day when you stop comparing. On the other side of the fence,parents of “normal” kids compare also!!

  2. Jonathan Goodman says:

    I really feel you brother. This feeling finds it’s way into every parents heart in mostly small ways at some point in time I suspect. And it surely is a trap. It’s a great lesson and reminder for all of us.

    Love that line about the transmission… felt like I was in the room with you 🙂

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