Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's my birthday

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. 


  1. Happy birthday! As someone who has already gone through my 40s, you'll love them. (Although I found the mid-30s pretty great, too!) The thing about getting older, as my sister-in-law always says is, it sure beats the alternative. A friend has a special needs child so, while I don't walk in her and your shoes, I see up close and personal the challenges her life presents. I found -- and gave to her -- a memoir about parenting a special needs child by Robyn Stecher ("There's Something about Daniel") that she loved and I think you'll enjoy as well. It's excellent not only for parents but really for anyone looking for a dose of inspiration. Stecher tells wonderful stories about life with her son Daniel -- there's heart, and wisdom, humor, love, and faith in her very special son and love for her very special life.

  2. Happy birthday! And don' get nervous about the forties, because they're the BEST decade!
    Great post --

  3. Happy Birthday! I'll be hitting 39 myself this year...I loved your post and your reflections. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Hi, Jennifer. I'm a new Hopeful Parent monthly blogger, and I too wrote a birthday post on my birthday (on the 10th). I also have 2 boys with special needs, and have been hearing that "I don't know how you do it" comment since they were born, although early on it was just because they were twins. Like you, my answer has always been "I do it because I do it. Do I have an alternative?" because really we are not all of us that special as parents. We have found ourselves in extraordinary circumstances and are somehow all just rising to the occasion. This is not to minimize what we do, but maybe more to minimize the sense of distance between us and those parents of "typical" kids who marvel at us - they are just one twist of fate away from walking in our shoes. And maybe that's scary to them so they need to think of us as special and chosen somehow, but we know better, we're just muddling through as best we can, making it up as we go along and hoping the tremendous love makes up for our occasional glaring fails.. Anyway, I'm glad to be getting to know you and Happy Birthday from down the road (I just turned the big 5-0)