Some days my stomach is in a knot so tight that I feel like I might collapse under the pressure. If and when I start to think about all of the responsibility that rides on my shoulders, it gets to be too much: the lack of adequate finances to handle 90% of the things that are applying said pressure and then the pressures of no job security, and the raising of two boys- who rely on me to advocate for them, offer a variety of life-enhancing activities, nourish their growing bodies and offer emotional security that allows them to flourish.
All of this, plus trying and wanting to have a meaningful relationship with my husband that doesn't succumb to the pressure every time we're in the same room. Yep. The mystery is gone. Gone are the days of a coquettish look. Now, even if I tried to give him a coquettish look, he'd probably think I'd gotten something in my eye...if he noticed at all. My friend Larissa used to say that traveling with us was not for those uncomfortable with public displays of affection. She recalled a trip we all took to Paris. We had rented a car and were planning to navigate the streets of France from airport through to the charming town of Honfluer, into Normandy and eventually onto Paris. Charles was the designated driver since I could get lost in a paper bag, and he has a naturally built in compass- always knowing which way is North. Larissa sat in the back seat of our red Auto Europe rental listening to us bicker about which way to go. I was map-handler, which I can actually do (it's when left to my own devices that I'm a hot mess), but France also has multiple signs...pointing in different directions, supposedly all leading to the same place...
...You get the idea. Maybe you even know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyway, we were bickering. And then we would discover we were on the right road after all, and it was all, "I love you Pookie!"
All of this was before kids. While we had pressures then, the stakes got higher after having children. Then, add to that a child who needs "more"- for whom there are a multitude of therapies designed to improve his abilities. It feels like you can never do enough. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Hippotherapy, Music Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Adaptive Skills Therapy...That maybe, somehow, you're not doing enough...or that of what you are doing, you're probably somehow not doing it right. Mind you, I ride the same guilt trip with my typically developing child too. Maybe we haven't worked hard enough on teaching him to tie his shoes or pushed the reading hard enough...
The truth is that we struggle financially and that does not offer an easy solve for so many of these pressures. I was recently telling another Mom of a child with special needs that we need to go to Due Process with Los Angeles School District to fight to get Elijah a one on one aide- which is what he needs to be safe in a preschool classroom setting. She said, "Can't you just get him one and not bother with the school district?" The answer is no. No, we cannot. School let out for summer recently and if I had $1 for everytime someone asked me if Christian was doing summer camp, I might actually be able to afford that aide. Christian is not doing summer camp. There are only so many things that fit into our budget and so we have to prioritize. Summer for us looks like unstructured days with a lot of living room forts being built, water play out in the backyard, walks with the dog, playdates with friends and an occasional special outing.
Here is how I cope: I, the eternal optimist, look for the silver lining. I compartmentalize. I ask myself: Can I do anything about this right now? If the answer is no, then I put it out of my mind. I have to, or the pressure would be unbearable. I work hard. I cook 99% of our family meals, I make all of my kids lunches, I take the throw rug out into the backyard and scrub it clean for an hour, I re-cover the dining room chairs, I cut my childrens' hair, I do my own manicures, I do my own hair color...and I do all of this not because I'm some kind of SuperMom, but because I HAVE TO.
I remind myself that I grew up similarly to how my kids are growing up. That we didn't go out to eat often, that we didn't take elaborate vacations, or go to summer camp every year. Sometimes we were even bored. But, mostly we weren't bored at all. We made our own fun. I like to think that maybe, maybe it was some of the "lack" of some of these things that helped me become the highly creative person that I am. Give me a problem and I will offer 10 ways to solve it. Maybe I would have been like that anyway if my childhood had included daily entertainment, but as I said, I like to look for the silver lining...
Then, every once in awhile we get to escape from the pressure just a little and have a memorable, experience that doesn't revolve around our homemade solutions. One of those things came along recently, and thanks to a friend's generosity we took the boys to Disneyland for the very first time! It was worth the 6 year wait. I totally understand why I have friends that go to Disneyland as often as possible. I'll just say that it might even have been better than Christmas!!
The boys are so excited!
The only characters we actually saw (except for in the parade)...
Christian and his friend
The only ride Elijah really seemed to love. He clapped his hands the whole way through it.
Guess they can't pull out the sword...
So exhausted. He only slept for a few minutes at a time and then would wake up, look around and smile. He seemed to love taking in all of the sights at Disneyland.
The real fun was Christian. He was old enough to appreciate every aspect of it and boy was he in love!
There is pressure in living life- responsibilities that we all have- whether the finances are good or not, whether you have children or not, whether you are innately an optimist or a pessimist. We each deal with our own pressures. I feel under pressure fairly regularly, but I think it makes me appreciate the simple things...my sons' laughter, a walk in the neighborhood, a meal that turned out just right...and I know that I will always have moments of worry or of wanting to "keep up". I will want to buy that extravagant gift for a friend, offer to cook a meal for someone who is sick, take that much needed vacation and sometimes these things will be possible, and sometimes they won't. Pressure, as I've been realizing, isn't all bad. It forces us into action. It's pressure that creates one of natures most beautiful gems- diamonds. I suppose, in part, it's how you handle it. It's about what you let inside, I think.
Wayne Dyer says it well: "When you squeeze
an orange, orange juice comes out - because that's what's inside. When
you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside."