My mom is just like Sally in “When Harry Met Sally” when it comes to ordering food at restaurants. No matter where we are, and whatever she orders, she almost always changes the dish as it is presented on the menu. We need to add in an extra 10 minutes of Carole’s specific requests for each meal out, and it very often gets sent back to the kitchen as not correct.
It would amazing if we could order the type of child that we want off of some form of a menu before they are born. “Um, I’ll take a super athletic tall blond haired blue eyed boy, please. With an order of extraordinary intelligence on the side. And can you also bring out perfect manners and terrific social skills to start? Thanks.”
Unfortunately for all of us, children are not given to us that way. It’s more of a “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” kind of a thing. Most of the time, they come with our inherited genes or illnesses, our unruly curly hair, or their father’s inability to handle stressful situations as easily and as tactfully as their mother can (this part is actually referring to specific children that I know very, very well.) They also sometimes come with parts and pieces that we have no idea how to handle, and completely throw us for a loop.
Sam is currently in San Antonio for the week with my parents as his chaperones. Today they all spent the day in school with our teacher Julie learning about the Alamo and exploring the River Walk. Today I learned from Sam that Davey Crockett died at the Alamo and Pee Wee Herman lost his bike there. The show opens tonight in what appears to be the perfect theater to host “The Addams Family.” Sam says it feels like The Pirates of Caribbean ride but you are in a theater. I’m so excited that I will be there on Friday to see it in person.
There are only two children in this production and therefore, only two children in this “school.” They are two very, very different boys and it is often difficult when there are no other children to hang out with. The cast and crew have been amazing and have included Sam in many activities, but of course there are many things that he can’t be a part of that take place during the day when he’s at school, or after the show at night when it’s just too late for him.
If I could have ordered the other child on this tour off a menu, he would be like many of Sam’s theater friends back here in AZ. But we don’t get to pick how every situation will turn out, and we have to adjust to things that we aren’t used to dealing with. Different parenting styles and different behaviors are easy to navigate in regular life, but it’s hard to avoid when you are with another family almost 24/7.
I have many friends here who are coping with the reality of who their child is or is turning out to be. Acceptance of differing educational and developmental skills in your child vs. another child can be hard to do. Realizing that your child cannot participate in an activity because of physical or biological limitations can be devastating. But it is up to us as parents to, as my friend Julie says, “throw out your plan.” The child you ordered in your head while you were pregnant is just not who they are. The more time you spend accepting this and the less time you spend denying it is only going to benefit your chid. Put that child on the medication. You did not fail as a parent. Pull him or her from that activity. They are not behaviorally/physically/socially meant to do it. That is your job as a parent. Spend that energy fighting for your child and making sure they have everything they need to succeed in this crazy world. Stop trying to live out your childhood dreams through your child. They don’t want to do that activity or sport: you do.
The best part of “When Harry Met Sally” is when the older lady, after witnessing Meg Ryan’s infamous orgasm scene in the restaurant says, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Trust me when I say we all, as parents, have been jealous of another child’s abilities or looks or personality. But we can’t turn to waiter and ask if we can have one just like they have. We can’t. And we can’t send them back if they don’t turn out exactly as we ordered. We have to enjoy the dish. Even if the dressing does not come on the side. Just suck it up and be glad someone brought you this amazing meal in the first place. ‘Cause there are many, many people still waiting to be served.