The other night, after a particularly difficult day, John and I sat down at our living room coffee table to eat dinner. At 10:15pm. It had taken until 10pm to get Mareto to sleep so we just ordered some take out chinese from across the street and planned to watch a netflix show, chow down, and go to bed. But then John looked at me and said, “This is nothing like what I thought life would be like.” I responded with a very exhausted, “I know. It’s very different then what I had planned. Not worse. Just different.” The next several minutes had us reflecting back on what we thought our future would look like when we were preparing for marriage.
I see it today in the young engaged couples. They are so sweet and in love and absolutely nothing could possibly go “wrong” in their world. I was the same way. I had stars in my eyes and dreams in my heart when I walked down the isle. We were going to live in the mountains in a cozy little home. We would have a baby on the way within a year or two of our wedding. We would have 3-5 kids and I would stay home with our happy little family. I would home school and cook and clean. My kids would be incredibly well behaved because of course I would be the perfect mother. I wouldn’t make the same mistakes “those” parents in the store with screaming kids made. It was going to be a fairy tale.
Now I’m exaggerating just a bit. I wasn’t that naive, but I was pretty confident that things would go just as we had planned them. Reality crashed down quickly on September 16, 2006. A little over a year after our wedding I was laying in a hospital bed hearing the words, “I’m sorry, your baby has died.” And the rose colored window that I viewed our future through smashed. Things haven’t gone as planned since that day. I sure didn’t plan for a second miscarriage 10 months later. And I definitely didn’t plan for what is now over 7 years of infertility.
But not all interrupted plans are bad. I hadn’t planned for adoption when we said “I do.” But God did, and I can see now how perfect that plan was. Bringing Mareto home wasn’t originally a part of my plan… but it was THE plan and it is perfect. Bringing Arsema home wasn’t on my radar either, but then there she was in a friend’s facebook update and I know. That’s my daughter. Those are the plans I didn’t make but that have been beautiful surprises… perfect little gifts from a loving Father.
Mareto teaches me this lesson daily. When we first heard the speech therapist say, “I’m referring you to the psych department for an ASD evaluation,” somewhere in the back of our minds John and I were both thinking, “This isn’t what I planned for.” We were scared, confused, and a little heart broken. When Mareto came home we had dreams for him. I remember people often looking at him and saying, “he’s so big – he’s going to be a football player!” I would smile and think, “he can be whatever he wants to be.” I never dreamed anything too specific, but I did dream of him doing well in school, making lots of friends, riding a bike, learning to swim, playing an instrument, applying to colleges, meeting a girl, getting married, becoming a dad… all the normal things a parent dreams of. Autism simply didn’t factor into my plans. Not once.
I didn’t plan to rock my 30 lb 2 year old to sleep every night. I didn’t plan for melt downs that last 2 hours and include him hitting himself in the face. I didn’t plan for him to be non verbal when other children younger than him speak in full sentences. I didn’t plan for any of that. I didn’t plan for the possibility that he won’t be able to move out on his own at 18 or 22. I didn’t plan for the though that he might not get to go to college or get married and have children. But things rarely go as planned. And that’s okay. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like, let alone 20 years from now. Maybe he’ll surpass our expectations by leaps and yards. Maybe he’ll move right up that spectrum and off into a future that I never imagined. Maybe he will go to college and maybe he will get married and maybe he’ll live independently. But maybe he won’t. And that’s okay. Because autism was never a part of my plan, but it was always a part of God’s plan for us. And Mareto give us more joy than I could have ever imagined possible.
Slowly, as the years go by, I am more and more okay with my plans being altered… or all together changed upside down and inside out. Six years ago I couldn’t handle it one bit. But today I’m learning to roll with the punches a little more. Mareto is teaching me that. Like today, for instance, I had planned to write this post during nap time… but Mareto didn’t nap today. Something was upsetting him and after over an hour of rocking and a dose of melatonin it just wasn’t going to happen. So I took a deep breath, got up, grabbed the apple juice, and turned on Barney. It’s okay. Things rarely go as planned.