The Great Battle: Uncertainty vs. the Joy

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Fear, and especially uncertainty, can be a sneaky thing. Sure, there’s the grip-your-stomach-so-hard kind of fear. You know, the kind where you can barely breathe because your heart and soul are terrified for your child. That kind of fear, well, it’s pretty obvious. But it’s the uncertainty that can be tricky to identify. It can wiggle its way deep into you like a tree’s big, long tap root. You might not even notice it at first. Maybe it’s only a slight hesitation or a teeny, tiny voice that whispers, “Sure everything will be fine… Right??”

If you’re not careful this uncertainty can be even more dangerous than the obvious, terrifying fear I mentioned above. Mostly because the fear is pretty darn obvious. Uncertainty on the other hand… not so much. And I’m sure as many of you know, it doesn’t take much for that wiggling, nagging voice to turn itself into fear. And when you’re working with your child, especially when it comes to developmental delays or just any challenge that requires us parents to have a peaceful, hopeful, kind mindset nothing stops that faster than our fears.

Our kids aren’t dumb. They know how we feel… which is why when you specifically tell them not to do something they straight-up look at you, smile, and do it anyway.

Right now, I’m battling a bunch of my own uncertainties. Why? Lots of reasons, but one is because it’s November. No, it’s not the big, giant holiday month that is December, but it’s big enough… especially because it feels like a giant, ticking clock is over my head, striking its long tones as it gongs closer to midnight.

The uncertainty? Well, it’s time. Time that I’m running out of… or, at least it feels like.

Eric is nearly 11 months old. One more month and he officially won’t be a baby anymore. That terrifies me. Terrifies me because it feels like all of his babyhood was a blur. Moments and smiles and laughter that I didn’t take enough time for and I’ll never get back. We’ve also decided that there won’t be any more babies for our family, which is a decision Sean and I both feel is right for us; we’re happy with the family we have now… but boy it’s not making this hurt any less.

I know this whole year I’ve done the absolute best I could with the life I was given. I have no regrets about decisions I’ve made or, after an outing at the zoo or aquarium or several hours at Disneyland, how I then propped my kids with toys and entertainment while I checked out to recharge my own, very depleted, introverted batteries. Every time I do this, take the needed moment for myself, especially lately with my personal doom and gloom ticking clock, I’ve got that little voice asking, “Are you sure about this? I mean, this is time that you’ll never get back.”

I usually shut the voice up with a definitive, hell yes.

See, while it’s so important to play with my kids, to connect with them, I also desperately need to watch my own energy levels. I’ve learned what I need to keep functioning as a somewhat patient and kind parent (and trust me, this was a trial and error… mostly error, process). Even if my battery hits zero, it’s not like I can call my mother or husband and say, “Drop what you’re doing. I need a break. Can you come over and make dinner? Put the kids to bed? Give’em a bath to get the playground sand out of their hair because Kate thought it’d be super fun to go swimming in it?”

I don’t have the option to call in the cavalry when I’m in need of a recharge. So even though my reasons for tuning out, for choosing to sit quietly or check email instead of connecting with my kids is not only valid, it’s needed. And yet, there’s still that stupid, nagging voice of uncertainty trying to derail everything I’ve carefully, and slowly built.

That fear that I’m not doing enough.

That I’m not good enough.

That I’m still missing this.

And it really, really hurts thinking that way. Thinking that I could have been giving them even more, thinking if I hadn’t chose to write a blog post, a short story, or taken that online workshop I would have been more there for them.

See how that uncertainty turned itself into fear?

Sly and tricky, that’s what it is, and now I’ve found myself second-guessing choices for this coming month. Should I try to take this other workshop I signed up for, even though I’m better prepared with scheduling and have babysitting set up? Should I bother writing? Should I go with my gut and drop Kate’s speech therapy to only once a week and, heaven forbid, trust in myself and the work I do at home with her? (And believe me, this last one is pretty terrifying and I can feel that uncertainty hitting high, high into the red zone.)

And then there’s my little Eric, who’s slowly morphed into my own crawling, climbing clock that follows me (and big sister) everywhere. A reminder of the time I’ve lost to stop, to stare into his eyes, and just make him laugh. I already know I lost a few months of his small, cuteness when we first got on this road with Kate as a late-talker. My fear was so real, so consuming, it’s like I’ve got this black hole of not just Kate during that time, but Eric too.

I don’t want to lose anymore time or joy.

Except… it’s so easy to just pick up Eric and cart him around while I do shopping, errands, or laundry. Just, pick him up and off we go, my mind always focused on the next task, the next item on my to-long list. Part of that is the product of our society where two people do the work of an entire tribe and somehow try to raise well-balanced, independent, kind children.

That’s our family situation right now and I get that. I can’t change a whole lot and I’m totally doing my best. But boy, am I feeling the loss of that connection with both of them.

Of course, it’s also not helping that Eric’s made my sleep these days a living nightmare. Not sleeping really makes everything so, so much more challenging.

Which is why I keep telling myself it’s okay.

I’m trying to forgive myself for not being as patient or ‘there’ as I want to be. I really am doing the best I can, and I’m making changes that are best for me and our family. Is no one sleeping? Is everything feeling exhausted? Well, let’s nix that trip to the museum. Or Disneyland. I even made the difficult decision to rehome my blue and gold macaw, Timothy. It broke my heart, but it was the right decision and I have no regrets.

One of the reasons I needed to write this post was to get my own uncertainty out there. Sort of putting a big, fat label with neon, blinking blights and a fog horn bellowing, “Hey! I see you.”

I’ve found that when I talk about my fears, because that’s really what my uncertainty is, it’s almost like I’ve got the power to get ahold of it and wrestle it to the ground. Talking takes away its power, like I can finally open that locked door to find solutions or just a better way of coping. Or, a better way of seeing the problem… sort of like a mind shift to see the positive and not just the scary, negative part.

Talking just helps, at least, it does for me.

That’s one of the big reasons I’m building a new support network around me. People who are supportive and understanding, people who I can talk to and who don’t just bring in negative and toxic vibes into my life. They actually have a positive influence on me and help ground me when I’ve got all those uncertainties declaring war on my inner peace. And for you, your support group will be different. It should be different. You’ve got a different life, a different family, a different path than mine, which really is as it should be (and I do hope you’re going out and building that right-kind-of-group-for-you because it makes a huge difference in getting through these parenting years).

I’m building support with other stay-at-home moms through the Moms Club. I’ve recently joined a local homeschool group, and I’ve got my writer network from the days of before-kids. I’m also taking the time to build a closer bond with my family and in-laws. Granted, some of those relationships will bring the uncertainty roaring in, but it can’t all be perfect, and most of the time, it’s the opposite. Heck, I’ve joined a Facebook support group for parents of late-talking kids and that has really help me find, and really believe in, the sense of peace I have now with Kate and who she is. I truly have little fear about her future because I’m so confident in the choices we made and the path we’re on together.

I’m more afraid of that ticking clock.

I’m afraid that if I take this next workshop I won’t have the energy to work with Kate, that I’ll be too stressed on hitting my deadline then working one-on-one with her, or just smiling and playing the roll ball game with Eric.

I’m afraid that I won’t have the energy to be present and connect when my kids need me… when they want me. That I will continue to miss this joy that I should be feeling right now.

Just like I was completely missing the joy over Kate having her first true words. And that one, right there, is straight up that sneaky uncertainty worming its way in. I didn’t even realize that’s what it was, fear in disguise, until I talked with another mom who had her own experience with delays. I told her about Kate’s true words, “Uh no!” and how she’ll say them dozens of times per day, and in context. She’d never done this before. Never used words consistently and continuously. My friend exclaimed with the utmost joy and excited of how thrilled she was. For me. She’d been there before. She knew what I was going through.

It took me by surprise.

Mostly, because she was right. It was exciting. It was something that should break my heart with joy to the point of crying and laughing all at once… but, while I enjoyed every time Kate said those words, how I would smile and love and treasure her voice, how those words carried so many meanings… I never felt that excitement my friend mentioned.

Because I was too scared.

It took some reflection to recognize this, but sure enough, that’s what it was. Fear. Fear that Kate would say these words and then she’d tuck them away again. Fear that I wouldn’t hear her voice and the so many inflections and meanings she gave to those two small words.

Fear, and uncertainty, are crazy powerful and even me, who was pretty darn at peace with my life and where we’re at, felt it pretty hard. And truthfully, I still do. Even right now. All I can do is try my best, to change my mindset to not look at the fear, but the joy. That’s what I wasn’t fully embracing with Kate and her true words, the joy and trust that those words were there.

And they wouldn’t be going away.

The joy that I felt when Eric crawls toward me, determined and smiling, because all he wants is his mommy. Joy, especially, when I play and make him laugh. The joy because I’m a mother and a parent, but I’m also me too. A new-to-homeschooling parent, a writer, and a woman who just went shopping and spent a ton of money on clothes because the baby weight is gone (and that was truly something worth celebrating over).

I know this struggle between fear and joy isn’t going away. Heck, I just lived it all over again right after writing this when I began doubting myself and my ability to be Kate’s partner on her language journey. I mean, I’m only a parent, I’m not an expert on language. I can’t help her enough. I’m not good enough.

See? There’s that doubt. That uncertainty.

And I might not be a speech pathologist… but I’m an expert on my kid. No one knows her better than me and I need to trust in myself. Trust in what my intuition is saying… which is that I can get more work done, more progress forward if I make a concentrated effort in our daily lives rather than just trusting to the speech therapist and the specificed play time she spends with Kate.

It’s going to be a battle to keep myself looking forward, trusting, and believing… but I’m aware now. And now that I’m aware I can do something about it, I can (hopefully) move closer to that joy I want so badly in my life. There will be days where I’ll miss because I’m not perfect, and that’s okay too. So long as I keep coming back to this place, this feeling, this trust.

Trust in the joy, in myself, and really, in my kids.

After all, if one thing doesn’t work I can reevaluate and try again. And again, and again, until I find something that works… in that moment anyway, because everyone knows when it comes to kids nothing stays the same forever. It always changes, and I’ll find a way, somehow, to change with it. And keep smiling. At least, I’ll try to and that’s really what matters most.

Trying.

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