Tag Archives: existentialism

Existentialism Meets Special Needs Parenting

15 Oct

I don’t know when it was, exactly, that I first fell in love with philosophy, but I do remember how. I picked up a book called “Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy” by Jostein Gaarder. It must have been my junior year of high school, but maybe my senior year? Again, I don’t remember the ‘when’, just the ‘how.’ I devoured that book. The further into it I got, the less I understood, but I managed to digest a lot of the concepts, which served me well later in life. (Mostly college. I ended up helping teach my Intro to Philosophy course. Thanks, Sophie.)

Anyway, I know I had already finished the book by the time my senior year Theology class had “Existentialism Day,” because I know I was already familiar with the fundamentals of Kierkegaard (Hey fellow Dane!! Sorry about your broken engagement!) and Sartre. And I remember that some of the other students struggled with a concept that, intuitively, made sense to me. Even if I hadn’t read any philosophy at all, I completely understood what Jean-Paul meant when he said that by not choosing, he was making a choice. I remember my friend struggling with it. “But you’re not choosing, so you’re not making a choice!” “No,” I replied, “Your choice is not to choose.” I didn’t know how to make it any simpler or break it down any further – it just made sense to me. (We also really liked the “Hell is other people” quote, and we wrote that in each other’s yearbooks.)

And now I am paralyzed by Sartre’s truth- by not choosing, what choice am I making?

A couple of months ago, I went for a second opinion on the infertility. The doctor was actually very optimistic. He gave a variety of options, a variety of choices we could make, things we could do differently this time. I took the folder home to talk it over with Ken, and they recommended calling when my next period started so we could do another round of IVF. Our fourth.

And the folder has sat there since then. And, with each subsequent period, no phone calls have been made. I am not choosing to go forward with a fourth round, but I haven’t chosen not to. I have chosen not to choose. But is that narrowing our window? Is it diminishing our chances? Is not choosing the right choice? This is what I have been struggling with. On the one hand, this is our last, best hope for a child. Given the recent hospitalizations for depression, I don’t think adoption is a valid option anymore. Trying on our own has had no success after five years. If we’re going to have a baby, it’s going to have to be IVF. But am I prepared, emotionally, for a fourth failure? For the door closing for good?

So the folder continues to sit. I have chosen, for now, not to choose. But I worry what the consequences will be.

To be fair, some other things have also kept us busy in the meantime. I have one good update, and one not so good.

Good update: Gloria has transitioned to an assisted living facility solely dedicated to patients that need memory care. It’s a fabulous place. She is doing really well there, participating in the activities, helping the other residents, and the staff adore her. Thanks to my part-time schedule, I have been able to go out and visit her every week and bring her little presents. Last week I brought her a Hello Kitty doll dressed up for Halloween as a ballerina and she carried it all around the facility with her and snuggled with it as I tucked her in for a nap. I’m also really enjoying getting to know the other residents – Laughing Betty, who has a huge belly laugh for everything!, Singing Betty, who still knows all the words to Sinatra songs, and Mrs. McLeod, originally from Scotland and still has a thick brogue and is just sweet as can be. It didn’t really occur to me that I would enjoy going out there, but I do. And it’s even better when I bring Daniel – the residents follow him around like groupies! He is so sweet and patient with them and it warms my heart to see my child treat them with love and respect.

She may not look happy, but she's actually saying 'Cheeeeeese'

She may not look happy, but she’s actually saying ‘Cheeeeeese’

Which leads me to the not so good update. Daniel is still really struggling in school. On the recommendation of … I don’t remember who now…. I took him to a local facility that does evaluations for occupational and speech therapy. I don’t have the full results yet, but the occupational therapy evaluation showed significant delays. I was and wasn’t surprised. I knew Daniel had problems, but I was surprised as to the extent of them. The full report should give a better picture, but in the meantime, I’m beating myself up for not bringing him in sooner, for not noticing, for not doing everything I could right away from the beginning. But I kept telling myself things were fine, that he would outgrow his difficulties. But I have to face the reality – Daniel has special needs, Daniel has delays, and Daniel needs extra help.

And now I have to make another choice – do we keep him at the Catholic school he loves, with a teacher who understands him, a principal who adores him, and the friends he’s made, or do we switch him to the public school, where he can get an IEP and more resources and be closer to our house? I can only choose to not make a choice for so long. I have to figure out what’s best for my little guy, and Sartre and Kierkegaard are pretty silent on that subject.

I am focusing on the positives – he is thriving on the swim team, especially with his back stroke. He went to his first overnight Scout camp and got to fire a rifle (!), catch a fish, ride a horse, and play flashlight tag. He spent a recent day off from school snuggling in bed with me, reading my anniversary present – the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection. (I’m a little afraid he’s going to see it as an instruction manual.)

Hell is not other people. Hell is being responsible for another person and being paralyzed by choices for that person. It worked out well for Gloria. I have to have faith that it will for Daniel, too.

Our little Otter

Our little Otter

This kid and his ribs...

This kid and his ribs…

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