As parents we would all love a look into the future. To see our children as adults, thriving and flourishing, making their own way in the world. We’d want to see happy faces, confident demeanours and self-esteem in spades. All so we can pat ourselves on the back and launch a metaphorical high five for a job well done.
Yet when your child is a little different and his future is unlikely to follow a path well-trod, then you might sell your soul to have a peep at what lies around the corner.
“Will it all be okay?”
“Or at least a version of okay.”
“Sort of okay will do.”
“A bit better than terrible?”
When Gabe was little and his development was slow, I obsessed about the idea of being able to look ahead just to see what was in store for us. To see whether we were damned or blessed. I had a mental image of children running through fields, happy and content. Everyone present, everyone well. But on darker days, I saw two broken bereft parents muddling through. Hollow and spent.
Putting away the decorations after his first Christmas, the one where his health was in fast decline, I wondered where we would all be one year on.
Which flip of the coin would we be dealt? I needed that one little peep forth. I really did.
Not knowing how things will turn out is one of the hardest things to accept when you have a child with additional needs. You need a leap of faith as you keep taking footsteps forward and that is not always easy.
Especially when the fairy tale might not have a happy ever after.
The urge is not so strong now but a couple of years ago I was like a woman possessed. Spending hours on Google looking for answers it couldn’t give. I remember typing in lists of symptoms that just would not unify no matter how many times I entered them. I recall all too easily the gut wrenching pain I felt as I asked one more question.
“Will my son be all right?”
I just needed someone (or something) to say:
“This will not break you.”
“You will all eventually chug back on.”
“There will be laughter, fun and happiness.”
If I had a view into the future back then and could see the life we lead now four years in, would I be relieved? This life where my beautiful funny child goes to special school and doesn’t yet talk or walk; the one where he is the size of a two year old and has the appetite of a baby. Or would I be frightened? Would I weep at what I saw?
It might look dire from one peek. I might guess at the journey to this point: the horrid tests, the hospitalisations, the cruel illnesses and the tense conversations with doctors and therapists.
What I wouldn’t see is the highs along the road that would mean nothing to anyone else but the world to me. The first roll, the sound of a Peppa Pig-fuelled giggle, the cuddles, the continued excitement of a trip to Waitrose, the babbling and the bum shuffling.
I would hope that I would look beyond it all and see the smiling, cheeky boy who makes my heart soar. That has taught me patience; to take life a day at a time; to not sweat the small stuff so much. Would I grin in pride as I saw a boy who gets more kisses in a day than One Direction on tour? A boy who is doing amazing in his own little way. Making strides that I couldn’t have dared dream of.
Would I know from a snoop into the future that I am largely happy with my lot?
I hope I would. But I am not so sure. Perhaps for that reason it is best my wish to foresee the future did not come true.
Because real life is so much richer, in higher definition with a panoramic view, than anything a cloudy crystal ball could show.
There are still too many days where I crave that peek ahead.