I think any parent of a child with a chronic illness or a misunderstood syndrome will understand the episode of Parenthood that aired tonight. Adam’s son Max has Asperger’s and a man in a grocery store called Max a retard so Adam punches the guy. It is amazing how many emotions welled up in me in that one scene. Later, when Adam explains to his dad that he’s just angry about not being able to be in control, not being able to make his son better, the tears just flowed freely. One thing that is so hard is the loss that we feel when we are told there is something wrong with our children. When we are told there is a life growing inside the womb, we begin to dream the dreams of a perfect child. We wonder what color their eyes will be, what it will be like when they say “I love you” for the first time, what they will be like as a teenager, what college they will plan to attend. Then in one fell swoop, those dreams are dashed. Thrown to the ground.
Don’t get me wrong. I know diabetes in itself isn’t a death sentence. Most children with diabetes (Type 1, Neonatal, MODY, Type 2) can live a life like any other child. But it does change the dream. It changes the perspective of the parent, even if only for a little while. For the parent of the newly diagnosed child of any disease or disability, the beginning is all about the disease/disability. Parents go through a grieving process and part of that process is “Anger”. It is a natural process and we have to go through it if we want to get to the other side and survive.
I feel like we were given this unbelievable blow not once, but many times over. The first time was the miscarriage scare which was followed by the sound of a little heartbeat the next day. The second time was the longest week after Andy was born. Nobody could tell us what was wrong with our baby, just that “something isn’t right”. The third was the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. And finally, just months after celebrating our wonderful little miracle of taking him off of insulin, we were told he was developmentally delayed. At this point, the “A” word began to be thrown around which just made me even more angry.
I have had those trips to the grocery store and the restaurants where I feared the worst. I must say we’ve been lucky that any problems have been greeted with understanding and not rude comments (yet). I think if I were in a situation like tonight’s episode, I probably would have punched the guy too (not that I condone violence, but in theory it sounds good 😉 ). I say all this now, not with a heavy heart, but an understanding one. For all of those parents out there (and patients too) who are dealing with a new diagnosis, be it diabetes, autism, a learning disability, or any host of other devastating things, it does get better. Allow yourself to go through the grieving process. There will be tears. You will probably ask God “Why Us?”. You will get angry. Then life will become a new normal. Your dreams for your child will return, even if they look a little different. Now, you know you can’t have a clue what God has in store for your life or your children’s lives. So don’t even try. Just be a parent. Enjoy your child for all of their wonderful quirks. Don’t let the disease/disability define you or your child. Be an advocate and spread awareness. That is the best way to stop the ignorant people. God willing, they will never fully understand what we have to go through day after day. But maybe they will be a little more sensitive if they have just a little bit of knowledge.