Tuesday, December 11, 2012
On hoping for more than happiness for your child with special needs
Max was out of his head with happiness at his birthday party, because it was exactly what he'd ordered: one visiting clown, one Cars 2 ice-cream birthday cake with his photo on it, assorted Cars 2 paper goods, lots of friends from his class, his little cousins.
Nothing in this world makes me happier than seeing my kids happy. And yet, lately I've been thinking that I want more than happiness for Max.
Over the years, when I've worried about Max's development and capabilities, people have told me the most important thing is that he's happy. I know that's basically true, and that projecting my ideas of happiness onto him doesn't do either of us any favors. When my heart twinges about stuff he's not doing, I can think about how happy Max is and stop the ache.
I am very lucky, I know, to have a child who is truly happy most of the time (unless the store making his birthday cake accidentally uses—horrors!—green icing, in which case wailing will ensue). Max literally beams when he gets up in the morning. He giggles easily and frequently. He squeals when he's excited. He smiles as he kisses me. He is a walking ball of joy, this boy.
Here's the thing, though: I would like for Max to experience so much more than happiness in life. I'd like for him to find satisfaction in work, as I do. I'd like for him to feel the tenderness of being in a relationship, to find enlightenment in traveling to new places, to take pleasure in a hobby (ideally, one that does not involve Lightning McQueen). I'd like for him to know the wonders of deep friendships, and the thrill of independence.
Years ago, when big hopes like these would spring up, I'd repress them. I feared I'd be setting myself up for crushing disappointment. In some ways, my hopes remain tempered—I don't think about Max going to Harvard and becoming a doctor, or that he will climb Mt Kilimanjaro. My hopes are all within the realm of possibility.
But, yes, I'm letting myself have bigger dreams. I am hoping for a richer life for Max, one in which he knows more than happiness. And I'm ready to take the risk of hoping. Max deserves that. There are so many doubters in the world, people who don't understand the abilities of those with special needs. If I don't have these hopes for him, who will?