As a kid growing up in Minnesota, I always found it a little cruel that they branded cattle and wondered what it would be like to be a steer that gets branded. Now I know.
I have done many difficult things in my life and career, and will do whatever is needed for our kids. But one thing I have never done is to clip a baby’s fingernails. It sounds simple, but the truth is it’s like defusing a bomb. One false move and you go from a calm baby to a screaming bonanza.
And sorry guys, but women are much more likely to possess the nerves of steel required for this operation. I am fortunate to be married to one such specialist.
Still, from time to time, we forget to clip his nails and realize that T’s nails are ready to be trimmed. That’s normally no big deal.
But recently, I was holding him and his nails were a bit long and he was in a feisty mood, and little Zorro decided to leave behind a TRBL brand – and made a small gash on my forehead and a cut on my nose. Now I know how the cattle feel.
Timothy has always been a very good sleeper – 9 hours a night – but he started crying lightly in his crib early one morning recently. An important skill for a baby to learn is to ‘self calm’ himself. This means that some of the time that he’s crabby or irritated and is crying, he is able to settle down on his own, without being soothed by us. You don’t want every small irritation to send him into a tizzy. But every parent knows the eternal question of ‘do we go get the baby or let him cry it out?’. In this case, we decided to give him a few minutes and what would happen. We’d love to say that this was the result of a lengthy conversation about the long term benefits of calming himself, but it was more like two sleepy parents who didn’t want to get out of bed making a pinky promise not to blame the other if it turned out badly. And fortunately, the wee man stopped his crying after a few minutes and we all got some more time to sleep.
Thanks to whoever invented the concept of ‘self calm.’ In a polarizing election year, we adults would benefit from taking a lesson from the younger members of the audience.
We very much appreciate how supportive people have been since Timothy was born. But we can’t help but feel a little guilty when people tell us “you’ve been through so much” or compliment us on how well we’ve handled things with Timothy.
Because our current situation is really not so tough, and is actually pretty amazing.
Here’s the deal.
First, the challenges of the ‘Timothy situation’ have been mostly inconvenience and a lot of time. Boo hoo. It brought fears and concerns but they haven’t materialized. It’s like a tornado warning where nothing happens. The tornado threatened — T could have suffered from serious health issues or he could have had major developmental delays, etc — but it hasn’t come yet. You might feel anxious waiting out a possible tornado, but it ain’t anything close to dealing with the real thing. Disabilities can present major issues, but we’ve been very lucky so far.
Secondly, we have many friends enduring great difficulties – terminal diseases, divorce, lost loved ones, etc. We pray for these people, and know that their trials keep our speed bumps in perspective.
And most importantly, it’s hard to capture, even in a rambling blog, the joys, lessons and gifts of TRBL. I’ve only written about a fraction of those precious moments. Any baby is an incredible addition to a house. A child with a disability has the potential to open you to new learning, fresh perspective and relationships. And having this all happen when we’re older and wiser and have the benefit of two insightful and loving daughters who help us celebrate and make sense of it all is pretty remarkable.
Life at the Lees is not always gum drops and buffalo wings, and we still worry a lot about Timothy and we know that life holds no guarantees for the future. But as of today — still no tornado, others have endured much, much more than us and we have this amazing little boy.
We are very blessed.