The. Struggle. is. Real

It wasn’t too long ago that when that remark was made, usually in the company of other moms talking about the trivial trials of raising their children, I would react with a forced smile and nod. It almost felt like other moms were wearing a badge with those words, while holding their Starbucks coffees on the side of a soccer field, or at the elementary school science fair- recounting how Junior was up all night gluing their (prize winning) over-the-top research experiment about the habitats of African spotted frogs. What they didn’t realize was how hard it was for us to be at that soccer field – it took more than just finding the uniform to wear – it took so much courage and support to just get my son there. They also don’t know how difficult it was to explain what a science fair and project was. I heard the whispers ' why wouldn't such a bright kid understand that?' No, projects were complete hell for our family. I cringed every time an assignment came home. But in those days, we delved deep into understanding how to jump over the hurdles without stress, how to translate what the behavior was, because doesn’t it say somewhere that the more knowledge you have the easier it is. {notes of sarcasm!} I thought I was really mastering how to support my child as he navigated life with a condition that chose him. He never chose 'it'. He was growing, learning, playing outside, loved books, loved his family, knew how to ride a bike, swam like a fish. We created our own normal – and I was, am, dam proud that we stuck to the values we thought were essential and necessary, despite modern society seeming to be drifting away from those things.

So even then, that remark held so much more meaning to me.

Two years ago it took on a whole new meaning for me – when our son's real struggles reached a low that was taking all of us with him. And in all that chaos, all that pain, all those questions, my husband and I set our family on another path. We had no idea what to expect. We just knew the path we were on was disappearing beneath us.

We were shattered.

On this new uncharted path and around every corner awaits that monster named : struggle.

Our weapon is hope. I have never in my life experienced so much struggle and hope at the same time. How can that be? There isn’t one answer to that. I have surprised myself at how I have sought out support in areas that were never quite my ‘thing’. Faith. Inspirational stories. Viewing life through different lenses. Sharing with others who have stumbled into this exclusive club. I was the last person to share what was on my mind with other parents. ‘ No-one talks about their fears’ is what I had convinced myself of for most of my adult life. And if they were giving out college degrees for being driven by fear – I would have been the star student. I have been blessed to meet incredible people along this path. The support is genuine. How is it that in our times of deep pain we become more authentic? Real. For me, this couldn’t happen until I let go. I am reminded often by statements like:

‘When a parent first learns that her child (fill in the blank), a common fear is a lack of control over our lives. Will I be enough to meet my child's needs? Why didn't I see this coming? How do we grab the reins back and fix the situation? Loving a child with ( blank) forces us to recognize what we can and cannot control.’

I was also recently listening to The Journey of the Heroic Parent ( Brad Reedy) and this passage has really stayed with me :

We act as though avoiding pain will lead to a more joyful life, but I assert that feeling pain shows us that we are alive. Your pain will lead you to where you love, where you need, and where you feel joy. To eliminate or run away from it leads to addiction, emptiness, and meaninglessness.

Looking back on some painful times in my life I have emerged stronger, more confident, and more whole. This path we are on, tells me my work is not done. I could not wade through this pain, frustration, struggle, and confusion alone. We should not ever feel - alone.

WAB is my village. WAB is your village.

So the next time you tell me The Struggle Is Real – you can expect me to listen, hug, and just be there with you. No forced smiles.


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