A week ago tonight, my husband and I were not in a good place. We were grappling with the knowledge that our youngest son (our easy one) might be severely dyslexic and in need of a lot of help. We couldn’t decide which news was worse…the fact that he was dyslexic and would struggle with language, writing, spelling, and reading his entire life or that perhaps the best thing we could do to help him in the long run was to move him to a “special” school that caters to children with learning disabilities. The whole thing stunk worse than a dead mouse in a car’s heating duct.
When you find out you’re pregnant, you run out and get a copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting because you want to know what you’re in for. You’re excited about what the future has in store. Last Monday night, after we’d received the less than positive news from the dyslexia specialist, we took the boys out to fulfill a promise we’d made a couple days earlier. We went to Target to buy more Skylanders because, well, why not? While browsing around in Target, I saw a copy of that ubiquitous pregnancy bible. I suddenly hated that book. I stared at it with contempt.
“That book is worthless,” I told Steve.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because it doesn’t matter what happens when you’re pregnant. When you’re pregnant, you believe everything is going to be perfect. You’re going to have the delivery of your dreams where everything will go exactly as planned. Your child is going to be born healthy. He’s going to be strong and flawless enough that he can do all the things you hope he will do. He will speak two languages by age 5. He will make the winning catch in the baseball game. He’ll take calculus in 10th grade because he’s just that smart. He’ll get accepted to five, Ivy League colleges and give the commencement address to his high school class as valedictorian. When you’re pregnant, you can see no other outcome. What they need is a book called What To Expect Is The Unexpected,” I said quite bitterly. I was in a very bad place.
The past week of my life was far longer than I wanted it to be. Last Wednesday night I remember looking at Steve and asking him how it could ONLY be Wednesday. Hadn’t we lived a lifetime since Monday? I wasn’t sure how I would make it to the weekend. But, I did. And with each passing day and with each little bit of additional information about dyslexia, we began to feel better. What had looked so bleak was beginning to look palatable. On Saturday after we saw the James Redford film, The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, we understood that dyslexia is no longer the brick wall that it once was. There are programs that can help a dyslexics greatly. And, we’re in the position to help our son. No matter what he needs, we’ll be able to make it work. They say knowledge is power and they are right. The more we learn, the more we recognize that this diagnosis does not equal doom. Luke’s already on the road to getting the help he needs. With some hard work and a little perseverance, Luke will still be able to do a keg stand at college someday. And, unlike most parents, we’ll be proud because he worked hard and made it there on his own.
When my boys struggle, and they do it a lot, I remind them that every single hardship they are enduring while they’re young will only make them stronger and more resilient as they get older. I tell them that the kids that have it easy now one day won’t have it so easy and, for those kids who’ve never had to fight to overcome an obstacle, life will seem suddenly, incredibly, and insurmountably difficult. For my boys, though, and for all kids who have to put in longer hours, life’s hardships will just be another day at work. My boys may have it rough on the front end but once they get through these challenges, they will know they can tackle anything. And, although it does not seem like it to them now, that experience is a gift.
Twelve years ago I was expecting my first child. I had the book. I thought I was ready to go. What I realize now is that even with the book, I had no clue. What I thought I wanted for my sons was the wrong thing. The universe corrected me and, as hard as I took it sometimes, it was absolutely the right thing. Life is not for sissies. And if there’s one thing I know now about my boys for certain it’s that they’re not sissies.