James and I recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary, and my sister shared this photo of us smiling widely from the back of a limo. I look at that young couple and the life they envisioned in their mind… and laugh at how far it drifted from their original course. We were so young and so sure of our plans.
When Eddie was born, three and a half years into our marriage, we learned that we don’t actually get to make all the decisions. This unpredictable course brought forth many challenges that not all relationships will survive. Those without these special kids may wonder why that is… because shouldn’t these children multiply the love in a home? Shouldn’t they bring out the best in us as we overcome unique challenges? The answer is yes and no.
I can tell you that like most parents, our greatest shared joys come from all three of our kids. However, when Eddie meets success, only the two of us can truly appreciate the magnitude. As his parents, we have a shared connection that allows us to laugh, weep, high-five, and dance when milestones and challenges are met.
On that same note, we share in the disappointment. When things aren’t going well, and we can’t help him, we share those lows. We fight about how to make it better. We disagree on what level of expectations should be set or how we can support him. I believe statistically most couples fight over money. In our home, our epic arguments are more often over how best to take care of Eddie.
I’d guess this is because Eddie is very complex, and there are no easy answers. We can’t pick up a child-rearing book that will tell us how to assist communication, how to teach daily living skills, and how to stop a tantrum. We most often learn by trial and error and by the advice of multiple therapists and educators. Although the advice is helpful, and sometimes life-saving, we are the only ones that understand the 24/7 impact of our child’s disabilities.
So, as I look back on a younger version of us, I consider the path our life has taken and am grateful we took a chance. You see, I didn’t even know what kind of parents we’d be let alone what kind of parents we’d be to a kid like Eddie. We’ve been lucky as we’ve kept our sense of humor and have come out the other side of every argument. However, that doesn’t mean this path has been easy, and we know there is nothing simple about co-parenting a child like ours.
Looking into the future, there is even more uncertainty as Eddie ages. Each day seems to bring more questions instead of answers, and that leaves us vulnerable to fear and disagreements. Our intent is to continue to seek out the joy and humor first and to forgive each other when the bad days roll through, as they are bound to do. We’re blessed with three pretty great kids, and they are proof that 16 years ago a couple of youngsters made the right choice.