My mom sent me a link to an article recently. It covers a family in England who have two children - twins - born 5 years apart. You can read it here Twins Born 5 yrs Apart . My mom said, "Sound familiar?" Of course it does. My girls are also - genetically, technically - twins, born 25 months apart. How? The miracles of modern medicine! Long story short, our 3rd in-vitro attempt resulted in 7 embryos. Two were used immediately and we were blessed with S in 1999. The rest were frozen. Fast forward two years, we thawed and used the embryos and were blessed with K in 2001. Technically and genetically, they are twins since they resulted from the same batch of fertilized eggs. Typically, however, "twins" refers to two children born of the same pregnancy, which is why I explain the "technically and genetically" part.
The reason I bring this up is because it is one of the things that I have pondered over and over and over again when I look at both of my girls. They look a lot alike, but many siblings do. Their personalities are distinctly different, as are most siblings. Both are healthy and happy. S was premature, but has no residual effects from her early arrival. K was right on time and yet, her extra-special issues will be with her forever.
Why are they so different in this fundamental way? I will never know. Like most parents of extra-special kids that I am privileged to know, I have done my fair share of trying to find the cause. In some cases, with lots of extra-special kids, you can find a cause. On the other hand, there are so many cases where it just "is." Who knows why they ended up they way they did? Make no mistake about it, though; every parent has spent at least some time wondering, "Why? How?" The wondering is very often accompanied by the elephant in the room - guilt.
Guilt lurks in the shadows of your mind. It waits until you are vulnerable and then comes out to play. We parents of extra-special kids can be very vulnerable at times. You look around and see families moving through their lives, knowing that their children will more or less follow the expected path to the future. You watch those families with envy, knowing that your own family and your own path is very different and not easy to take for granted. You look in your child's classroom and wonder how you ended up with the extra-special kid. Once you've wallowed in that for a little bit, the questioning begins. "Is it something I did?" In my case, in the early years of K's diagnoses, my questions were a bit like this, "Is it because she was a frozen embryo for 2 years? Or is it because I had such severe morning/all day/for 5.5 months morning sickness? Could I have done something to prevent this?"
It is easy to get stuck in that dark place. We think it would be so much easier to deal with if we just knew why it happened. The reality, in many cases, is that we will never know. Once realized, one can begin to move forward out of the darkness, though. Even if you knew the answer - knew why - it doesn't change the reality of today.
In the end, the past doesn't change my present. Today is what is important. Guilt can take a hike...find somewhere else to lurk. I've got no room at the Inn for you, Guilt. Guilt only distracts me from the blessings of my current place and impedes my ability to move forward. Guilt tries to make me feel like I haven't done enough, am not doing enough, will never do enough. Guess what? I've been doing the best I can and that has to be enough!
I think most parents worry about their children in one way or another at different ages and stages. Parents of extra-special kids have extra-special worries...or maybe just extra worries, in general. Will she learn all she needs to know to graduate? Will he ever drive a car (have you ever considered how many things you have to multi-task to drive a car?)? Will she go to college? Will he find his passion? Will she fall in love, get married, have a family of her own? We can drive ourselves crazy with the questions. It takes work to remember that we may not - and often don't - have all the answers. Not then, not now, not in the future.
Today, I know that I have two beautiful daughters. Two totally different and unique daughters. One requires a different kind of parenting than the other. S is traveling the expected path to her future; K is on a windier path, but it is her path, none the less. In many ways, we aren't that different from those other families. I cannot always question how I got here. I know enough now to appreciate that while things are different than I expected, those differences have brought me countless blessings. Not just the blessings of my extra-special girl - her light, her intelligence, her joy - but the blessing of self-discovery and finding that frankly, there's just not enough time to have so much self-doubt and guilt. Today, I know that I've done the best that I can do. Tomorrow, I will face another day - just like every other parent.