I have always experienced forward progress in my life. I excelled in school and went to college. I finished college and found a job. I turned that job into a career, and then I progressed that career forward. I met a man and eventually married.
Then my life failed to progress the way I had planned when no babies were forthcoming. Despite our best efforts, and those of our fertility doctor, I did not get pregnant. Eventually we adopted a beautiful 14-month-old boy from China. I progressed into motherhood!
The progress continued as our little son grew into a thriving toddler and then a smart and witty preschooler. Then we adopted again, this time a sandy haired two-year-old boy from Russia, with dark circles under his eyes and a playful personality. It’s been two years since we adopted our second son.
My oldest son is now a super smart six-year-old who is a kindergarten champ, just like I was when I was his age. This I understand. This child of mine I get. I know how to keep the progress moving forward with him.
With my second son, it is different. Due to trauma in his early years, he is often angry and is progressing at his own pace. His pace and my pace don’t match. He is not where other almost four-year-old children are in learning and development. Sometimes the lack of progression makes me feel like I am failing.
Sure, we are making progress. We have found a few interventions that help ease the anger, the early life trauma, and the ADHD my son has. I have let go of some of my own anger that life hasn’t turned out how I had planned. And through it all, I have always loved this beautiful child of mine.
One morning when I was driving my six-year-old to school, he asked, “When people say they are in a ‘storm,’ do they mean a real storm with rain, or do they mean a rough time in their lives?”
“It could mean either one. Why?”
“Because I heard someone say the other day that we shouldn’t wait for the storm to end. We should learn to dance in the rain. Dancing in the rain sounds like fun, don’t you think, Mommy?”
“I do think that, Doodle. Dancing in the rain is exactly what we should do!”
And he is right. It does sound like fun. My “storm” might not pass. It may ease up into a gentle drizzle. It may whip itself back into a frenzy of hard rain pelting me until I feel as though I will fall from the weight of it all. It may brighten a little as the sun pokes through the dark clouds. But it might always be storming.
I might always have early life trauma masked as ADHD and other behavior issues taking center stage in my life. I might always have Individual Education Plans, adaptive equipment, odd behaviors, and chaos to handle. I might always have total strangers judging me in public because my seemingly “normal” child is acting out. I might always have family members who don’t understand that large crowds, even crowds of family, will send my little man into a downward spiral. I may always have behavior charts. My future storms may include a boy who is unable to maintain friendships. Sometimes this reality is daunting.
But even though it is storming, I should learn to dance in the rain. I should dance every day when there is no fight over what my youngest will wear to preschool or what he will eat for breakfast. I should dance when he lets me walk away from him at daycare without any screaming or tears. I should dance when we get through the grocery store without him throwing the food out of the cart. I should dance when he laughs at Curious George on TV or when he follows along with Dora, helping her complete whatever mission she is on that day.
I should dance when he lets me read him a book at bedtime, without rolling all over the bed and walking away. I should dance when he tries a new food or uses the potty. I should dance when my little family has a successful dinner out at a restaurant or when we have a great time together at the park. Every day there are reasons to dance in the rain. Every day there is progress.
And the progress isn’t just from my youngest son—I have learned and changed as well. I no longer think my life has to be how I always dreamed it would be in order for it to be perfect. I no longer crave quiet and order. I fully understand now why judging other mothers is so very harmful. I have a little more patience and a little more understanding. I can let go of the “dream” in order to embrace my new normal.
And in the end, I am honored to be the mother of two healthy, fun, and smart little boys. Together they have taught me to think about life differently, to be more patient, and to slow down. They have taught me to dance in the rain. And I would say that is progress.
QUESTION: How have you found joy amidst ongoing trials and frustration?
CHALLENGE: Take time to notice the things that are going right in your life. Count your blessings and try to see the good, so that the next time your life isn’t progressing as you wish it would, you can find reasons to “dance in the storm.”
Originally published on August 21, 2013.
Images provided by Beth Wilkison.