January 19, 2018

fear to love

A friend introduced me to this great blog This Little Miggy. She hosted a writing contest and I decided to enter, just for kicks. I didn't win, and I'm ok with that because I really enjoyed the whole experience. But I was honored to be picked as a semi-finalist and my entry was posted on her blog here.

She asked the question, "How have you conquered fear and landed in love?" and gave us a 500 word limit. That limit was the absolute hardest part of the entire essay writing! I could've written so much more or gone on in an entirely different route if I was allowed more words. Being concise is not always easy. But I'm a rule follower and I wasn't sure how picky she would be about that parameter, so I got it down to exactly 500 words and submitted it.

So here is my 500 word essay about conquering fear and landing in love:

Some moments you never forget.  

Like the phone call from foster care placement asking us to add two little ones, ages 2 and 1, to our family. He asked, “Are you comfortable with special needs? The two-year-old tantrums a lot and autism is suspected.” No problem, I thought. This was not our first placement through foster care so I knew what tantrums looked like -- or so I imagined.  

I’ll, also, never forget the moment I first laid my eyes on that blue-eyed, blonde-haired little boy. We walked into the office and there he was strapped into a stroller and rocking his whole body back and forth, back and forth. And he was humming to himself. I will always remember his sweet voice humming. He was absolutely precious. 

As we drove that beautiful boy home, I felt confident. I had hours of parenting and trauma training, a past career in early childhood education, and my experience parenting two boys. I often gave parenting advice, solicited and unsolicited, to friends and family. I had it together.  
I jumped into the water with both feet.  

As the weeks passed, it became clear that the water was much colder and deeper than I expected. His delays were significant and his behaviors extremely challenging.   

Autism quickly taught me I knew nothing. And other people were going to see that. That was the terrifying part— The y were going to see we were struggling. I quickly realized I was trying to swim wearing a winter coat of judgement, pride, and expectations. I needed to shed that coat to move forward. 

The diagnosis of autism with developmental delays officially came 9 months after he joined our home. Some days I felt I was swimming through calm water and becoming stronger. My love for this special little boy deepened daily. The more I served him, the more I loved him. And each day I found joy in his approach to the world.  

But some days, when I was exhausted from treading in the waters of challenging behaviors day after day, those waves of fear would wash over my head. Were we the right family for him? Could we meet his needs? Could we embrace the challenges? Would our lives change?  

Would I let those fears anchor us down and tether us back?! 

I decided absolutely not. I love this boy. And I love what autism teaches me.  

Now four years after our adoption was finalized, we are swimming strong. I have learned to make adjustments and let some things go. Instead of hiking, we got a tandem bike and go on family bike rides. Instead of worrying about stares during a meltdown at the museum, we focus 
on the smile and kind words of a stranger. Instead of judging another mom with an “out of control” child, I ask how I can help. 

Swimming through these often scary waters has ultimately made me stronger, happier, and more filled with love for my son, for myself, and for others.