It was the dinner hour one day last week in the Wilson home, and our 8 year old daughter seemed particularly bouncy. As we attempted to settle in, it became apparent why she had a little extra energy running through her body. She passionately began to share that during school that day, her class had participated in a “code red drill”. My mind flashed back to early elementary school days when my school had fire drills and a couple of real live “bomb scare” evacuations of the school. Unsettling. Something about our precious 8 year old describing how all of the children in her class had to take cover in a place that would put them out of the line of sight (code word for fire) of anyone peering through the glass window of their classroom door made my heart sink. Corners, under tables, all bunched together. I could not fully let my mind’s eye go to a scene where this drill could become reality, though it doesn’t take a lot of imagination as I interact with the daily news.
As if their hearts needed to redirect after such sober matters, they moved onto lighter topics. Suddenly we were discussing what would each of our daughters do if a boy wanted to marry them. Their dad puffed out his chest a bit and said something to the effect of “bring them to me”. This led into discussion of the different girl friends and boy friends dad and mom had in the past – lots of kissing questions ensued. And then our talk jumped back to what to do if someone wanted to marry one of them and they did not want to do so. I suggested that if this happened, they should dial up a “code red” and 4 men over 6 feet tall would come running – one of the many gifts and advantages of having 3 grown, tall brothers and a daddy.
On Monday, I was responding to a summons to appear at our county courthouse for jury duty. My name had been called and I was sitting in a courtroom with 36 of my peers waiting to see who would be called to serve. In this setting, I lived my own “code red” moments. A text came in to a mom seated next to me reporting that several area schools had been placed on lock down, my children’s school among them. The far-fetched code red drill of dinner conversation seemed to be happening and I was truly grateful that they had practiced. To add to the stress of the moment, the babysitter that I had arranged to pick up my girls after school texted to say that her high school was on lock down and she wasn’t sure she could pick up our girls. You can’t just get up and walk out of jury duty – a contempt of court charge will likely follow. My husband was not reachable. Several deep breaths and a 15 minute break later, contingency plans had been made, friends filled in gaps, a vice principal explained that the girls’ school was taking precautions but the students were not on full code red procedures. The lock down situation did resolve, our girls came home and reported at dinner they had another code red “drill”- thank you awesome school staff for protecting young hearts and minds- and all was ok in our little world. On that day, I was not forced to explain that an ex-husband had shot his ex-wife in a nearby parking lot and been hunted for four hours until he was found dead, of suicide. But I do pray for God’s grace and care on the three newly orphaned children and their family members who are left behind to deal with a big code red situation. God have mercy.
NPR is where my radio dial mostly hangs out. It offers a rich menu of topics discussed in an in depth way. Many times it captures my imagination and what I hear helps me to live a deeper more thoughtful life.
About a week or so ago I heard Amanda Bennett, author of The Cost of Hope, being interviewed by Diane Rehm. Bennett’s love story memoir chronicles her life with her husband, focusing on the last years of his life battling cancer and pursuing life extension in all possible ways. She talks honestly about and wrestles in detail with the financial, emotional and relational cost of pursuing all possibilities and extremes of medical intervention during his last years of life. This is a topic that makes many of us squirm – how can we make judgments and decisions on the “reasonable” price of extending the life of those that we love? Even thinking about it is an emotional kick in the gut – can’t imagine living it.
Listening to her and pondering the many angles and complexities of this question led me to think about the cost of hope for those who are raising children with any type of special need. As parents, we all desperately want our children to live life to the fullest extent possible. But we also have to be realistic and honestly look at the big picture of our own individual family – we must consider the cost of hope.
There is a great temptation as a parent of a struggling child. We can spend a lot of time, energy and passion seeking the “magic bullet” – that thing that will normalize our child and our family. And the places to seek that kind of magic are numerous – many different types of mental health therapy, occupational therapy, nutritional supplements, medications, neuro/bio/etc. feedback, special diets, expensive brain scans, doctors of many persuasions and the list could go on and on and on. We could literally fill up our entire lives with evaluations, appointments and therapies. It requires wisdom, a great deal of discernment and a trust in God’s grace and guidance to navigate this pathway and choose wisely for ourselves and our children. Which of us would not figure out a way to pay the price, whether the currency is money, time or energy, for anything that we are convinced will truly help our child? The sorting through of promises and dangled hopes can be completely overwhelming.
So in a very real and sometimes gut wrenching way, we must come to terms with the “cost of hope” and which particular emotional, time and financial resources we have available in each of our families to meet the needs of our children in the best way possible. This will be different for each family. There will most likely be second-guessing and some level of “what if” as we walk this road. We have to learn to live in that uncomfortable space.
The honest truth is there is no “magic bullet”. This life together is a marathon and there are no quick fixes and easy answers. Yet I can rest well and be at peace with my God at the end of the day when I can with integrity say, “ we love our child with all of our hearts and we are doing the best that we can”. That is sufficient.
Ever since I was a little girl, reading has been a great joy. The words take me to far away places and times. I get to help solve mysteries, walk in the shoes of others and think and learn about things that don’t readily come to mind. Books challenge me to ponder deeply and see things from another point of view. In my recent reading of Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, these words jumped out at me – “that book taught me that by reading, I could live more intensely”. That describes so accurately my own longstanding relationship with the written word.
There came a day in my parenting journey when I said “Dorothy, or Tricia, we aren’t in Kansas any more”. I was forced to acknowledge something pretty uncomfortable – despite the then 18 years of parenting experience under my belt, I was in over my head. So where was I to turn? A bibliophile like me being forced to walk down an unfamiliar path would of course start reading about this new place. So for those of you walking a similar path, I’d like to introduce you to a few of my new friends.
The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis – this was a book that I read before we adopted our daughters but I have probably re-read it 4-5 times since then. We can’t often put things we have read about into practice until it is game time. Reading Dr. Purvis is like having a wise mother or grandmother whisper gentle life giving instructions into my ear on the most difficult days.
The Post Institute – www.postinstitute.com – Bryan Post is one of my favorite guys. The biggest thing I have learned from reading and listening to his work is that on this journey of parenting, I am the one that must address my own issues and be the one to make the changes. So many of the traditional parenting tapes running through my head call out that I must control and make my child change, when in fact the only person I can truly change is myself – we all know that but often forget that in the role of parent. From Fear to Love is a short book that is an introduction point to Bryan Post’s perspective.
Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline and all things written by Becky Bailey – Becky Bailey is truly my parenting paradigm shift hero. I am grateful for a friend who invited several moms to meet weekly this past year for an incredible time of encouragement and support as we traveled together through a very powerful workbook called Conscious Discipline. Though written for teachers, it is SO applicable to raising all children, and particularly children who have lived through trauma. Becky Bailey has given me the practical tools to live out a different approach as a parent.
Gotcha! Welcoming Your Newly Adopted Child Home: A Guide for Newly Adoptive Parents by Dr. Patti Zordich. This is a great and quick read for anyone who is thinking about, planning or in the early stages of an adoption. It gives very practical steps on how the needs of adopted children are different and how to meet those in the earliest days together.
If you have walked this parenting road, I’d love to hear what resources have offered light and hope to you. There is always room for new friends on the shelves of my library.