It’s very easy to make assumptions about what ‘normal’ families do. It’s also easy to assume that, just because a thing is what was always done, we should continue to do it. Trust me – before you figure it out, that way madness lies.
When the two youngest kids were much younger, we did the things that families do: going to other folks’ homes, grocery shopping, eating out, running errands in the car. Infallibly, disaster would strike during the outing (like refusing to leave the car, fighting for freedom, biting to avoid hand-holding, running away), or a ticking time bomb would explode when we returned home. There would be violent tantrums, meltdowns, insomnia, or terrors.
We started noticing the symptoms of anxiety, realizing that public noises were startling and intolerable, and so much visual input was overloading senses. Eventually we stopped taking the kids out. It meant grocery shopping had to be done by Dearest, most of the time. It meant volunteerism could only happen if there was a parent available to stay with the kids, because even if child care was provided at meetings, my kiddos couldn’t tolerate it. Shopping started to be almost exclusively done online, even for some of the staple groceries. Any deviation from the home routine had to be arranged with utmost care, and always with an ‘out’ in place, so that we could leave immediately if necessary.
I spent more time finding websites where I could research the most pertinent information (and for prenatal methamphetamine exposure, there wasn’t much!), and taking all the online classes offered to foster and adoptive parents. I read. A lot.
We’re not a ‘normal’ family. Was it unexpected to think we would be? No, in fact, I have two older children. I had first-hand experience about what families do, taking children in public, going out to restaurants, traveling to visit family members, even going to theaters to see live performances. With a three-year-old. Really.
In a quiet moment, a realization came – our family will be the hub of the wheel. It’s all right to watch the activity happen around us, and we can be gathered together, securely in the center, and watch if we want, or turn our faces inward when it becomes too much. We discovered that, even if ‘everyone else is doing it’, it may not be what works best for our family.
Considering I spend so much time at this computer, you can bet I look at a lot of knitting patterns. Sometimes I see one that strikes a spark in me, and I fall in love with it. The Emmaline sweater is one such pattern. I chose my yarn carefully and couldn’t wait to receive it. I even swatched for this sweater, mind you; eagerly cast on and started knitting. The yarn I chose was lovely to knit with and I knitted happily…
When an unwelcome thought started niggling at the back of my head I at first pushed it away, but it had to be faced: this sweater is not going to work for me. Ever. It isn’t the right style, and at this point in my life I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate much more than a tank top, even in winter – how could I have ever contemplated wearing a sweater knit with bulky yarn?
I removed the needle from my knitting resignedly and rolled the raveled yarn into a ball. It felt like the right thing to do, even though it wasn’t the easy thing to do. Changing plans can be like that, sometimes. Telling the family you can’t come to a gathering, turning down offers for social events, realizing that a family dinner in a restaurant is not a treat for anyone – those things can be hard to swallow, at first. The enlightenment, when it comes, is a relief; the realization that you don’t have to keep putting effort into a plan that was never going to work in the first place, and that changing that plan is not equal to failure. When we accept our differences and realize that the real best-laid plan is the one we make with foresight and honesty about the result, we can give the yarn to someone for whom it’s much better suited, and knit another pair of socks. J