I collapsed onto the couch at the end of another long day. Both kids were finally in bed, but Junior was still making a vocal protest about having to sleep, as he does every night.
“Why did God give us such a challenging kid?” I asked my husband. I thought back on that day of another meltdown in therapy, a screaming fit in the car, and an emotionally draining afternoon trying to reason with an overtired 3-year-old that consistently refuses to nap.
“What do you mean?” he responded, though still engrossed in ESPN.
“My friends all have easy kids. They sleep, they understand the word “no,” and for heavens sakes, they go to the grocery store and actually hold onto the cart!”
He must have sensed my question held an underlying insecurity, because he turned to face me as he considered a response.
“Why do you assume easy means good?” he asked thoughtfully.
Of course easy means good, I thought. Easy means sleeping more than four hours at a time. It means going on an airplane without stressing for weeks he’s going to have a meltdown 10,000 feet in the air. It means going to the park and playing with friends instead of going to therapy again. It means never having to explain why your child is different.
But then, suddenly, something in my brain clicked. Easy might be good, but that doesn’t mean challenging is bad. No, challenging is good in it’s own special way…just like Junior.
When he wakes up in the morning and says “ears!” because he wants his cochlear implants on, that’s good. He has had to work hard for every sound he hears — hundreds of hours of appointments and therapies in the last two years. But the pride I see when he completes a listening task is better than good. It’s a miracle.
When he sits in a chair and plays with Play-Doh instead of throws it, that’s good. Yes, it took 3 months of OT to get him to sit still for five minutes, but it was worth it.
When he goes up to his sister and hugs her instead of hits her, that’s good. It only took 327 times of saying “we don’t hit” before he finally got it (this time, anyway). But it’s still progress.
If I’ve learned anything in the last 3 years, it’s that the harder you work for something, the more obstacles you face, and the more sacrifices you make, the more you appreciate it.
My life with Junior isn’t ever going to be easy. But my perspective about his special needs has shifted. I appreciate the little milestones more than any typical parent is capable of. I don’t take those baby steps of growth for granted. I know how much hard work, sacrifice, tears, and sleepless nights have gone into every ounce of progress, and it means everything. And, at the end of the day, I don’t want an “easy” kid, I just want Junior.
A version of this post originally appeared on Save Money, Live Joyfully.
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