I was a single parent before Jasper was born, and ever since. The only issue his father expressed a firm opinion about was whether or not Jasper should be circumcized. Hygiene tugged at me on that one, until watching a video on circumcision at childbirth class. In the midst of the storm that followed Jasper’s arrival, circumcision became a non issue. No one asked about it. With everything Jasper had been through, I could not do that to him.
This past week I have struggled with an issue that I hoped was behind us. Having something of a controlling personality, most days I savor making every decision for Jasper, though he increasingly makes his own decisions. I coordinate the perfect outfit the night before school, shape his curls exactly how I like them (and he promptly musses them up). I sneak chunks of meatball into his bites of spaghetti even though he exclaims, “No MEAT-ball!” as soon as we sit down to eat.
Medical matters are far more significant than getting dressed. Doing my best to remain calm and unemotional through the decision making process, I couldn’t help but look around for someone to ask, What do you think? What should I do? There is no such person. That part has not been recast, the dual role is mine, and mine alone. Most days I can handle it.
Earlier in the week, Jasper had his thirty six month check up. The appointment ran well past the allotted sixty minutes and still it was not enough. Leaving the doctor’s office, I made a mental list of minor issues for follow up. Later that night, my brain recapping the day, the doctor’s word of caution regarding one of my concerns resurfaced. Without a second set of ears – either in the room during the appointment, or ears that listen at the end of a long day – I rely on myself. Fortunately, my brain kicked in, right before bed.
Reaching out has been a struggle my whole life. With Jasper, I recognized early on that this quality would be to my detriment. Parenthood challenges us in the hardest ways, it challenges us where we are weakest. But knowing who to reach out to is hard. Friends with typical kids have a tough time relating. Our reality is unimaginable to them. Friends with special needs kids struggle with their own crises. Family is far away. All of them are busy with kids, jobs, families, spouses. Others are consumed by self imposed busyness.
There must be someone who can reassure me. And I remembered one of Jasper’s practitioners, she was perfect. I immediately emailed her, tapped out a message on the small screen, by the dim light of the phone, hit send, and eagerly awaited an instant reply. Her reply was not instant, but it was not long, and it brought enough relief to afford me a night of sleep uninterrupted by worry.
The next morning, there were phone calls to doctors, reestablishing connections I hoped to not need again. In my mind, I ran through an inventory of friends, calling out each one’s particular strengths, imagining each one’s advice. Anxiety mounted, as no one jumped out, only an amalgamation of opinions. Then the phone rang. Jasper’s pediatrician. All week we had been in touch via email portal, perhaps my least favorite means of communication. She called to talk about Jasper’s issue and to follow up on the yellow sheet – ironically, it included topics such as, Do I feel I have enough support? Certainly not. Does anyone?
We talked for a good forty five minutes. Nothing was solved when we hung up. No decisions made, either about Jasper’s course of treatment or how to recruit extra help. But I felt more relaxed. I breathed more easily. Breathed. We had simply talked. About the emotional, financial, daily, pragmatic struggles of single parenting, and decision making, where there is no clear solution. No one is invested in a child the way a parent is. And when the other parent is not invested, it is hard to make that up. Nothing was solved. All she did was listen, reassure, and validate.
Ever since Jasper came into this world, I have sought the best providers, therapists, doctors, caregivers for him. In a few instances, they found us. We are surrounded by expertise and by people who truly care about my son – the pediatrician who calls me on her day off, the provider in Montana who quickly responds to an urgent email message. These are people I can turn to, that is what they are here for, they dedicate their lives to people like me and my son. It is Ok to ask, What should I do? It is Ok to talk, and know that someone is listening. Probably even taking notes.