I’ve finished week #1 of big family beach vacation.  We’ve got a lot of different family members coming and going, and one of the highlights of week #1 was time we spent with some close cousins.  The parents of this family adopted two babies from Paraguay, one of whom is Nate.  Nate suffers from some developmental delays.  I know I probably won’t describe them correctly due to my ignorance.  I think fetal alcohol syndrome is the main thing that happened to Nate.  He takes some medicines for seizures and other problems.  His IQ is pretty low and he doesn’t really understand things like telling the time or knowing right from left. 

Nate is the first child born into our immediate family who is different, and spending time with him this week has been eye-opening for me.  He’s 20 now but he is like a sweet-natured 6-year old in the body of a young man.  His parents have had many years of practice and their patience seems endless.  Nate doesn’t understand many things, and what he does understand he doesn’t always remember, and his parents don’t bat an eye at answering the same question many times in an hour, or reminding him to shower, or teaching him how to figure out what to eat when he’s hungry.  They chat easily with him when he mentions that he plans to get married, or drive a car, or live independently – things that they know he probably will never do.  They don’t seem frightened of his sexuality and growing curiosity. 

It’s been such a gift to me.  The idea was always that a different child is a tragedy, a falling-short of what "should" be; that both the child’s and the parents’ dreams would never come true.  But the different-ness of Nate has inspired superhuman love and grace from his parents – and don’t all children require superhuman love and grace, anyway? – and my idea of parenting, like the Grinch’s heart, has grown two sizes bigger.  The right-ness of Nate, just as he is, is inescapable.  This is complicated.  I am sure Nate’s parents’ hearts break for the difficulties he will have.  They worry about who will look after him when they die. 

But the rightness is in the formation of that family.  They adjusted their expectations, they were given patience and grace and skill or they grew it or I don’t know how they got what they needed.  They have it now, and I am reassured that we will also be given what we need, regardless of what flavor our kids are. 

I still hope for un-different kids, for all the good things and none of the bad, even though that’s fantasy and impossible.  I still think it’s sad when there is illness or physical problems; in Nate’s case the sadness comes because fetal alcohol is completely preventable.  But the rightness, the incredible adaptability of parents and families, the honor of just getting through another day, is staying with me.  I feel humbled that we went so far out of our way to try and control the uncontrollable in our PGD adventure.  I’m glad that it didn’t work out the way we wanted, because now I feel strengthened for whatever comes.

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