“He’s her lobster”. If you’re a Friends fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you aren’t a Friends fan, well, you should be. But, surprise! Phoebe was wrong and lobsters don’t actually mate for life. What do mate for life? Beavers, penguins and lovebirds (obviously) just to name a few. As humans, we don’t always find ourselves on this list but sometimes we connect with another person who takes the fear out of making a lifelong commitment. You survive together when it’s harder than you ever imagined and you thrive together when life is good. Navigating my spinal cord injury (SCI) while keeping our marriage together has had its challenges, but I never once truly doubted if we would last. He is my lobster penguin.
Marriage & Family Life
Raising our children to be accepting of all types of people has always been a top priority for me and my husband but it was never a personal battle until after my injury. As two young, Caucasian, able-bodied, straight people we were never in an obvious minority. We never felt singled out for attributes we had no control over and we blended in to our community without effort. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself in a wheelchair and we didn’t blend in as easily as we had in the past. With stares coming from numerous directions, our determination to raise accepting children only increased. But how? How do you integrate something into their little lives if it isn’t something you see very often? How do you teach something without pointing it out and bringing attention to it? Then my children – and every child I’ve met since my accident -taught me a thing or two about acceptance.
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.
“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.