Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Extra Needs, Extra Tiring


I have been a bit tight-lipped of late regarding our kids' extra needs. Because Amy and I are Ivy League educated, the presumption when we say a word about our kids being behind on this or that is that we are being stereotypical high-achieving parents who are never satisfied with our children's achievements. It is usually meant in jest, or even to compliment us or our children; but it bothers me a bit for people to rush to judgment and fail to affirm the very real challenges we face with our kids.

"Bother" may be too strong a word, as I would be remiss if I made someone who meant only the best for us to feel as though they have offended. But the need for affirmation and the disappointment in not receiving it are very real. The fact of the matter is that we are worn from our children's challenges.

Not "worn" in the sense of wondering if it is all worth it - our value for our children and our hope in their improvement and our gratitude for their progress are still at all-time highs - but in being simply and practically tired from the extra effort involved in interacting with and rearing them, given their delays. Jada's speech lags cause her to engage in conversations with us that are mystifying, unconnected, and repetitive; draining for two introverts like Amy and me. And Aaron's behavioral problems lead to spectacular tantrums and hard-to-shake habits that try our already dissipated patience as we seek to maintain a consistent response in the hopes that the lessons will one day stick. Both pose more communicative effort than we often feel we have enough in the tank for, for far longer and on a far more windy path than we often feel we have enough patience and resolve for.

Even as I write these descriptions, I am cringing at what readers might think: "no, your kids are wonderful," one might say if s/he knows us, or "wow, these guys are really ungrateful and selfish parents," one might say if s/he doesn't know us. But you know what, I need to say these things anyway, because I am tired, and I want to do right by our kids, and in that effort I need to vent now and then in order to stay sane and stay the course. And acknowledging their extra needs and my extra tiredness does not need to be construed as a privileged complaint of an over-achiever or an inappropriate whining about an otherwise easy life or an unfair smear on perfectly fine children, but rather as the reality of being an imperfect parent in an imperfect world trying to do his best for a couple of kids who happen to be delightfully easy in some ways and maddeningly hard in other ways.
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