This is the one, the birthday at which I become the age that people joke about....you've heard it, "39 and holding". I'm there now, entering the last year of my 30s, and looking back at all that's happened in my family's life during those 9 years.
It feels like a lifetime, like I'm not even the same person I was back in my 20s. So much has changed, so much has happened in the space of 9 years. In my 20s, I was immersed in career, a band director on the fast track, and life was all about competition, climbing the local ladder, making my name. Life pretty much consisted of my career, my husband, our new house, and a cat.
Then, exactly 2 weeks before my 30th birthday, our first child was born.....10 weeks premature. Thus began my new life on "the road less traveled" as Frost said. Previous priorities vanished, I quit teaching abruptly and never went back to the fast track again. I knew nothing about the world of "special needs parenting", and I mean nothing.... nothing about preemies, the autism spectrum, sensory integration, ADHD, IEPs, 504 plans, OT, PT, and the list goes on. As years passed, I became immersed in my boys, as good parents do, but in my case it's immersion in learning all that I can about their diagnoses, their needs, their therapies, their accommodations. I even decided, after much soul-searching and the persistent feeling of a "calling", to go back to college and begin a whole new career so that I can understand my own boys better and work with other kids who face similar challenges.
Along the way over the last 9 years, people have often said things like "I don't know how you do it, how you handled having two NICU babies, how you manage living day to day with the challenges you have" etc. And believe me, I've thought about it too.....how DO parents like us manage? What is it that allows us to keep our heads up (most of the time) and keep on putting one foot in front of the other along this path that is so often lonely, heartwrenching and dark? I don't have the answer, and I don't even think the answer is the same for each of us. In my case, I've just always said "you find a way to do what you have to do", you find the strength from somewhere, even when you didn't know you had it. I'm by no means perfect, FAR from it. I'm not always strong, not always able to hold it together; just ask the other parents from Mr. L's baseball team who've witnessed a meltdown, or the teachers that both boys have been blessed with who've sat so sweetly by my side as I cried during IEP meetings, etc.
But I know that I'm a bigger person (and not just in what the scale says) today than I was at 30, my life is richer (although that's not what my bank says), and I am better for it. My boys are true miracles, blessing me on a daily basis with their amazing spirits, infectious laughter and incredible talents. Just as I would never have been able to envision this day, this life, when I turned 30, I today cannot imagine my 40s and what they will bring. Since I am honored to write a post here on the 24th of every month, I'll keep you posted, ok? Look for my post on August 24, 2020 and I'll let you know how it went.
Jennifer is a Music Therapy student, mom to Mr. Literal with Asperger's Syndrome and the Energizer Bunny with severe ADHD, and she blogs (on alternating Thursdays on months with an R in them while she's wearing yellow) at Against All Odds.