A few weeks ago I spent the day with my daughter in the emergency room. She is 22 years old and her blood pressure was 190/130. Yes, I wrote that correctly—190/130. Thankfully medication brought it under control, but since then our focus has been trying to discover the source of the problem. How quickly life and perspective can change. We discovered the high blood pressure at a routine visit to the dentist on a Monday. That Monday I was thinking about a college my daughter might attend, and by Wednesday, of medical procedures she might undergo.
Last week, after many doctor’s visits, blood tests and scans, I needed a good cry. It came when I went to bed. As I cried, I thanked God for keeping Madeline safe as she walked around like a vascular time bomb—primed to explode at any time. I thanked him for her sweet and gentle spirit, kind heart, and sense of humor. God knows my previous requests on her behalf to overcome chronic fatigue and anxiety. But that night, I told him it was okay, that I was thankful for things just as they were.
What is it that makes us pedal backward in thanksgiving when we are faced with new challenges? Do we spend more of our time wanting better for our children instead of being thankful for the good?
Some of that is natural—we want the best for our children. And some of it is that we are trying to meet expectations set by ourselves and others. In my case, my kids are doctor’s kids. There are expectations for them to be well-spoken, well-educated, well-groomed, and just plain…well.
But life happens—and kids are born with autism (my other daughter) and they are gripped by anxiety and chronic fatigue. And when our friend’s kids go to college and find jobs, ours struggle or dabble in those things—with baby steps. For many years I have been thankful for baby steps, but now I’m also thankful for mishaps that have not happened, illnesses that have not struck, addictions that don’t exist, and abductions that never occurred. I will be content with autism, anxiety, occasional depression and chronic fatigue. I will be thankful for girls that get along better than ever. I will even be thankful for cats and dogs who constantly cover my furniture with a layer of fur. They have brought my children joy and comfort—what’s to complain about?
And get this (even though it’s a bit off-topic)—Just before my daughter and I went to the ER, my ophthalmologist husband brought Madeline’s beloved dog into his human clinic to get a close look at the dog’s infected eye. I’m thankful that he and his Harvard-trained partner were willing to wrestle a border collie/lab for an eye exam. Can you picture it? Brown dog—tail wagging—border collie busy--in an ophthalmic exam room. Who does that but a loving father? It was a weird day on all accounts.
The beauty of weird days is that they make you yearn for ordinary days—even ordinary days that are not perfect—and sometimes downright difficult or almost unbearable. I know—I’ve been there. When do we decide our ordinary days are not acceptable? If pain or violence are involved, they are probably not. It’s the in-between days that keep us stumped. Are those days well-enough? When do we accept a situation and just be thankful for the good-- and for the bad that hasn’t happened? I don’t know. It’s very personal.
Nonetheless, the lesson I learned over the past few weeks is that sometimes well-enough is enough. It’s important to be thankful for what you have now because life changes on a dime.
Just so you know, my daughter is doing better now that her blood pressure is down. She is not having the headaches that plagued her for weeks. Tests are still being run, but so far it looks correctable.
Well-enough. I’m grateful for it.
Dr. Karen Crum brings hope and practical support to parents through her blog and award-winning book, Persevering Parent: Finding Strength to Raise Your Child with Social, Emotional or Behavioral Challenges. Join Karen on her website or blog at http://www.perseveringparent.com.