Tuesday, January 14, 2014

First comes love, then comes a child with special needs, then....

"Max, tomorrow is the day when Mommy and Daddy got married!" I announced to Max after dinner last night. Today is our wedding anniversary, 13 years of better and some worse that got better.

Max jutted out his bottom lip. Tears welled up in his eyes.

"Sweetie, what's wrong?" I asked.

Max gestured to me, to Dave, to himself, then made a gesture like he was cradling a baby.

I instantly realized what was up: Max did not like thinking about a time in life when we were around but he wasn't.

"Max," I said, hugging him and trying not to laugh, "we've always been your mommy and daddy, and we love you!"

Max wailed. I tried again:

"Max, you were in my belly, and then you came out, and you were our baby!" I said.

"Max, you were here even before Sabrina was!" Dave added.

Max wailed louder. Tears flowed down his face.

Sabrina tried to make things right: "MAX!" she shouted over his cries. "THERE WERE PEOPLE LIVING BEFORE YOU WERE BORN!"

Didn't help.

Our sitter was there. Dave and I were heading out to have coffee and see American Hustle. I think this little scene says a lot about our marriage, our parenthood and how the two mix.

Dave and I are a team, more than we ever have been. When Max is upset, together we soothe him. We figure out ways to enable him, whether it's programming his speech app or encouraging him to grasp the stair rail and climb down on his own. We own our strengths: I'm more of the researcher and scheduler, Dave makes things happen whether he's driving Max to a program or picking up his meds from the pharmacy.

I'm a worrier, Dave is rooted in the here and now. In Max's early years, when I struggled with sadness over what had happened and I'd imagine the worst, Dave would bring me back to reality. "Look at him, he's beautiful," he'd say. He refused to let me wallow in grief because Max needed me, and I needed to see that Max wasn't a tragedy. Sometimes, I resented that he wasn't suffering like I was. Sometimes, I was grateful.

We no longer have that tension, because the grief has receded. Of course we fight; it's not necessarily a special needs parents thing, it's a parents thing. I sometimes think Dave is too permissive with the kids (you might recall his nickname, Marshmallow Daddy), and that he doesn't listen well enough. He thinks I get too tough on them and him. We argue. We pout. (OK, that's mostly me.) We work it out. We find together time, to regroup and reconnect.

Tuesday nights, we have a standing date to sit at the kitchen table and talk about stuff in our calendars and on our minds—practical stuff, dream stuff. On vacation, we're fine with dropping off Max and Sabrina in the kids' club so we can get some R&R. We try to regularly go out Saturday nights or during weekdays, even more fun because of that illicit school-night feeling. We also spend time apart doing things we each enjoy; Dave will go off skiing, I'll go to book club or see a show with friends.

We have no special secrets to a good marriage; we just go with the flow. There are days when we are better parents than we are partners. Some nights we end up sitting in the living room on separate couches, me typing and him watching TV, too wiped out to talk. But we respect each other's strengths, we deal with each other's weaknesses, we laugh, we love. I'm not sure the challenges we've faced with Max have made us stronger, but they are a history and a bond only we share and there is comfort and connection in that.

Max was still sniveling when we headed out the door. "We love you—you're our boy," I said. I kissed his wet cheek, then Sabrina. We knew Max would be fine. It was our time, an evening to celebrate us and celebrate life.

Happy Anniversary, love.

(Don't tell Max I said that.)


  1. Happy anniversary! (And, it's not just Max...sometimes *I* can't imagine there was a life before kids!)

  2. I know this wasn't the focus of your post, but loved the line... "..the grief has receded.." That really resonated! And Happy Anniversary!!

    1. That resonated with me as well - thanks! I feel that way about our T-man. Kristen

  3. Lovely post as always - congratulations - 13 years is amazing! Kristen

  4. Happy anniversary! Do you want an electric can opener?

    1. This better not be you, Dave! Because you should KNOW that what I really want is a new Dustbuster.

    2. Ther ARE ways to f igure out if it was him ellen!~

  5. Absolutely loved this post. Happy Anniversary!

  6. Happy Anniversary! Our 11th is coming up!

  7. "But we respect each other's strengths, we deal with each other's weaknesses, we laugh, we love. I'm not sure the challenges we've faced with Max have made us stronger, but they are a history and a bond only we share and there is comfort and connection in that."
    I think this is the secret to the strong marriage :) Happy Anniversary!

  8. I love that Dave could only think about how beautiful max is.

    How did you and Dave meet?
    Happy Anniversary!

    1. We met at a New York City club called The Roxy, we were both there with friends. I walked by Dave and we looked at each other and he said, "You look familiar!" I thought he looked familiar, too. Turns out we were both living in Hoboken, NJ. The rest, as they say, is history.

  9. Ellen, This isn't totally relevant but thought I'd share it anyway. I've been reading your blog for at least a couple of years and really enjoy your perspective. Thanks for all you do to shed light on the complexities of raising a kid with special needs. I saw this article and thought of your sharing of Max's story.


    Thank you for Love that Max! It can't always be easy to pull this all together (on top of another job and parenting 2 kids, one with special needs!), but it is appreciated.

  10. Fabulous post (as always!) Happy Anniversary! xoxo


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...