I don’t remember exactly what I said. It was something terrible, something I never should have said, something like well, if you are just sitting there, I guess it means you want to sleep in the car.
You see, sometimes I forget.
We have come so far, that sometimes I forget. We have progressed so much from where we started as a family, that I forget how hard it used to be. We don’t have so much yelling, them or us, and really had very happy and peaceful trips to Ohio and back, despite the bedtime dramas while there – which were still not as bad as last time, because we are all getting better at being a family.
Except sometimes we are so good at it that I forget what kind of family we want to be, or how hard we worked to make it happen, or what baggage we have fought through to do it right.
Sometimes I forget, and mess it all up.
Sometimes I walk in circles so many times that I forget I am dancing with autism.
Sometimes I wait so long on Kirk’s halting speech that I forget the miracle of him being able to talk and walk so well with cerebral palsy.
Sometimes our house is so full of medical drama and sudden emergencies and work schedule juggling that I forget the predictability needs of an autistic child.
Sometimes our house is so busy with therapists coming and going and the urgent rush to get so much done with home health plus our normal life of laundry and dishes and shoe tying that I forget the gentle and slow and quiet pace of cerebral palsy.
Sometimes when my eyes are glued to oxygen monitors and heart monitors and apnea monitors, I miss the tiny brown hands signing lullabies to me in the glow of the girls’ room at night…. And I forget that seven year olds won’t always want a lullaby and snuggles in the night.
Sometimes my “twin” four year olds are so strong and healthy compared to a baby that can’t breathe, that I forget about miracles like getting shoes on the right feet or new letter recognition or remembering to brush their own teeth without prompting.
I don’t really forget, of course.
It all passes by the corner of my eyes and stabs me in the heart, those moments I have illusions of being present for while the baby fights for her life.
Kirk needs new exercises for his left abs, and I never even knew it until last week when his therapist told me. Mary is signing fluently with classifiers, and I never knew it until reflecting on a conversation already over. Alex doesn’t have the visual spatial clues to know who is talking to whom in a group setting, and I thought all this time that he was just disruptive. Barrett’s only remaining triggers are food and arguing, and we missed the specific pattern of his special needs while we only assumed he threw random baby fits. Anber has gotten a new mean streak to hide her shyness, but I think she is trying to mimic the first graders but misunderstands their dynamic, so gets herself in trouble while trying to be cool.
They all need hugs and individual prayers in the morning, as much as they need breakfast and scripture study as a group. They each need attachment building moments via one on one moments with me and Nathan, as much as they need pro-social skills with each other. They all need reading in my lap, and private councils, and hair tousle-ing, as much as we need dinner at the table and evening prayers.
And I know better than to think any of my kids would want to be stuck in the car.
My kids have lived in the car, been locked in cars, and broken out of cars to survive. That’s how we got them. They don’t want to stay alone.
That is the stuff of nightmares.
But sometimes a they freeze.
And I don’t know what to do.
Because when one freezes, the others are still pulling at me.
But when you fall asleep on a long car ride home late at night, you wake up in that nightmare, and you aren’t sure if you are back in danger or not.
Night terrors are very disorienting.
So maybe you wake in a panic and can’t get out of the back of the car.
Maybe you usually like being the boss of backpacks but just sit on the sidewalk and watch.
Maybe you wake crying in the night, drenched with sweat, and can’t remember why.
Maybe you don’t mind helping to carry in bags, but you have to eat all the leftover snacks on the way in, just in case.
These are their lives, as real as anything, while we rush to change diapers and check oxygen and adjust monitors.
I am so sorry. I didn’t understand. I forgot. I totally failed as a mom with that, and I am so sorry.
They hug me and cry, waking from night terrors that will always haunt them from a past life.
The baby comes home still very sick, but better than ever before, and our family comes home still trying but doing better than ever before.
It changes us, such softening as happens when hearts are turned by the sealing powers of the temple.
It heals us, somehow, and makes sure we never forget.