During the hardest years of my young daughter’s life, I often wanted to be somewhere else.
It’s not a proud thing to admit.
It’s just the truth.
It was hard to watch her struggle. To not know how to make her life easier. To watch other kids seemingly learn with ease. It was hard to frame my days around her when it seemed like all the other primary caregivers were moving on.
I wanted to be famous instead. I wanted to write another book. I mean, I had just published two books. I wanted to capitalize on that fame. Well, not fame, exactly. But I knew I could write more books. I could find a job that suited my writing skills. I could go be in the work world again.
But I couldn’t. There was a someone who needed me. A someone who I knew I could frame my life around. Even as I sucked at it. Even as it was hard.
There was a mom who told me I was her hero, who said she couldn’t have done what I did. But she would have done what I did. People are pretty good at doing what is needed from them when their kids ask. It’s a generalization, but I see people around me helping their kids all the time.
But goodness, it was a bitter time. A bitter time that I dove into and this swimming eventually made me less bitter. Slowly but surely. I wrote an entire memoir about it. I wrote 5 drafts of it.
And I’m pretty sure that memoir will never see the light of day. That work I did on the memoir; some would say it was cathartic. By the way, writers hate it when people say, oh, writing that must have been so cathartic. Nah, I wrote it to try to figure out how to be a better person. The kind of person my Annie could rely on.
But you know where I learned how to be that person? Out in the world. With other people. With my husband and my older daughter, who loved Annie in real time. By her tutors, who taught me not only how to help her learn, but mostly how to be patient. How to stay still enough to give the girl with slow processing speed enough time to learn. They also fiercely loved her. They liked being with her.
And Annie taught me. Once I said to my husband, no one on earth loves me more than Annie. Chris answered, no, that’s not true. And I said, no, really think about it. Yup, you’re right, he replied.
When someone invites you in with love, you begin to change.
Slowly I began to change. I began to greet the day with my light instead of my bitter. With flexibility instead of expectation. OK, I still expect things, but I also can flex more than I used to flex. I’m more bendable.
And more joyful. Probably because I teach kids one day a week. Kids who are totally themselves, who invite me to meet the where they are at and we play.
I’m not the same person who sobbed when I learned my Annie was years behind. You see, Annie was light years ahead of me, really. I’m finally halfway there: able to see how lucky I am to have been invited to the most amazing connection dance ever. I wish that connection dance for you. It’s the grandest dance you’ll ever be invited to. And it lasts a shared lifetime. Trust me: you already know some of the moves, and the hard steps are learn-able. Let’s dance.
2 thoughts on “Bitter to Better”
Great piece, Nancy. I remember when you first took on this journey. Glad to see how well you stuck to it, how much it has yielded for Annie most of all, but also for you and Chris. Extraordinarily aware and devoted parents.
Hope all is well with you.
All is well. Can’t believe I have a junior in junior in high school! I hope we can catch up soon. Thanks for the compliment. I think most parents are extraordinary, and the ones that aren’t perhaps need better support. Wouldn’t it be great if America supported parents better? Smile.