I’m holding a grudge against Easter and I’m trying to decide if it is justified or dramatic. Spoiler alert: writing this helped me figure it out. Everyone always says that the firsts will be hard when dealing with grief – especially holidays and traditions. And that first year was definitely quite brutal. Every holiday, birthday and season brought about change in how I could partake in the celebrations and events that have always been highlights in my year. But Easter was significant. Easter came just a couple of weeks after my accident and ‘different’ doesn’t really even begin to describe how that first holiday post-injury went down. And even though this last Sunday was the third Easter since my accident I still had a really hard time planning and preparing for it. I still struggle to find the holiday spirit that, in the past, came so easily.
Marriage & Family Life
“Clowns to the left of me.
Jokers to the right.
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”
This lyric right here is my theme for Valentine’s Day this year. When you are married with children, life resides on a scale of “they are so sweet when they’re sleeping” to “OK, how many kids did we leave the house with? Because now there is only one”. With three children, it is rare that someone isn’t in need of something and when you are being pulled in numerous directions it is grounding and comforting to have a person in the trenches with you. Someone who partakes in life beside you, however it comes. Love changes as we get older and, to me, it is our actions within the day-to-day that truly express love. And so, when Valentine’s Day comes around, I find that the recognition of one another in our relationship is usually short and laced with sarcasm because taking one day to ensure your partner knows they’re loved seems insufficient and forced. It’s probably the one day out of the year my husband and I don’t have expectations on being seen, important and cared for. Because married love isn’t about this one seemingly romantic day. It’s about the other 364 days of the year.
A lot of people seem think that three kids constitutes a big family. I suppose by 2018 standards it does (especially when mom and dad are just breaking into their thirties). I always wanted a large family and it isn’t a secret that I’m still trying to cope with the idea that I won’t have any more children. While some people end up with large families somewhat accidentally, others find their way there with purpose and intent. One of my main purposes in having multiple children was to give them the shared experiences of childhood. The large age gap between my older siblings and me meant that I grew up, essentially, as an only child. My mom and I were very close and my childhood was wonderful but I always wondered what it would have been like to venture through those early stages of life alongside a sibling. I didn’t want my children to have to carry their childhood memories alone but instead share them with someone. I never thought that some of those memories could be ones from which they need to heal.
Confession. I don’t know how to put my wheelchair together. I mean, I understand the general placement of everything (big wheels in the back, small wheels in the front) but that’s about as far as my wheelchair maintenance knowledge takes me. When my legs were my main form of mobility I didn’t need to worry about nuts, bolts, lubricant and flat tires. Now, maintaining my mobility equipment requires a little bit more effort and know-how. At least that’s what my husband keeps telling me.
The following post is one that I wrote six months before my accident. As I read it back tonight it took on a very different meaning than what was originally intended. When I first wrote it I believed I was talking to myself 20 years or so in the future. Little did I know that, 6 months later, t -hese would be the moments and the memories that would drive my recovery and my fight to get home. A good “throwback Thursday” reminder to look for the special moments in the everyday. You never know when you might just long for ordinary.
From my faded C-section scar to my newly found first grey hair to the ridiculous number of unmatched children’s socks scattered around my house, it is fairly obvious that I am not new at the mom-game. Parenting is full of stages – all different and all difficult! With every birthday our children celebrate it is like we, as parents, advance on to the next level. I felt like we ‘levelled up’ big time with the start of Kindergarten and the school routine (I hear it happens again around puberty so that is something to look forward to). But before school came the toddler stage. I have managed to get through it twice relatively unscathed. But I just have to say that parenting a toddler from a wheelchair belongs to an entirely different realm of childrearing than anything else I’ve experienced.
Christmas is gearing up around my house and I’m pretty excited about it. Honestly, I love everything about the holidays. From the anticipation to the decorating to the traditions to the music, it’s the time of year that I feel the most grounded. For six weeks or so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect out of life; it is predictable and it is comforting. So yes, I am one of those people who breaks out the Christmas songs and decorations in November because it allows me to breathe. I can think to myself “OK, we did it. We made it to another Christmas”. With all of the change that has happened, the holidays are still familiar and welcoming; a feeling of coming home again. And even though I still get so much joy out of this season, I can’t help but feel moments of loss for all of the reasons that my favourite time of year is now different.
When you have children, there are a countless number of firsts. As parents, we carefully document every first as though our little ones’ childhoods depend on knowing the exact date that they first smiled. We track everything from their first teeth to their first steps to their first day of school. I find it sort of funny that we tend to document the firsts of things that will continue on for a lifetime but neglect to document the firsts of childhood and parenthood that are more temporary: the first time we hold hands, the first time our child falls asleep in our arms, the first time we carry our child on our hip. Unlike a smile that will (hopefully) last a lifetime, these are the things that will inevitably end. The part that breaks my heart is that most of these “mommy and me” moments end without warning – we never know which time will be the last time. For me, some of these things ended earlier than anticipated.
Every year I dread Labour Day and the blunt transition it brings: summer vacation to the school year. On the last Monday of summer holidays, as I was getting my boys ready for bed, that all too familiar feeling of bewilderment crept up on me as I thought about how quickly they are growing up. They are beginning to leave interests and other aspects of their younger years behind them. I have mixed feelings of excitement, trepidation and longing as I think about the new school year. I’m excited for the adventures they have yet to embark on but I’m nervous that they will stumble down the wrong path. I long for the simple days of toddlerhood, which admittedly were not without many challenges, but I was more in control of their worlds and what they were exposed to. Their questions could be answered simply without the constant noise of the world around them and the knowledge that quickly comes to them when they have the ability to read. But as I sang them a song before bed, the same song I have sung them almost every night since they were born, I started to think about the small amount of time they have been here on this earth and how much life they have already lived. When I think about the challenges these two boys – at six and seven years old – have already overcome, and the way all three of my children have handled themselves since my accident, I find myself amazed by their resilience and capability. And I realize my children have taught me about what is truly important in life and what is truly important in people.
Life is busy and I think everyone looks forward to an escape. Travel was the furthest thing from my mind for many weeks after my injury. Initially, I assumed that it would be too difficult to travel with a wheelchair and a spinal cord injury. What I have learned about travelling in the almost 18 months since my accident is that it is different and there is more planning involved, but it is most definitely not impossible and can still be awesome. I have travelled by boat, plane and car since my accident and while we come up against big and small hurdles almost everywhere we go, there hasn’t been much we haven’t been able to overcome.