It was a typical school assignment for a typical class. It went something like this:
Dear future me,
Hi, how are you? I know you’re good because you have it all figured out. You’ll be 26 years old when you get this. You’ll be married and have 2 or 3 kids by now. You’ll be a stay-at-home mom, but have your accounting degree. Your husband will be awesome. Probably athletic.
It went on like this for probably a good full page or 2. I don’t remember exactly because the teacher who vowed to send us our letters in 10 years never did. My 20th high school reunion is coming up this year…I’m not holding my breath.
This was the life I expected. The life I planned. I saw absolutely NO reason this wouldn’t come to pass.
Where did all MY plans get me? Well, for the record, I aced all of my high school accounting courses! I enrolled in a local-ish college Business Administration program with a major in Accounting. After year 1, the major switched to Marketing (I loved and excelled in these classes). I always was a creative type and although the basic bookkeeping end of accounting was fun, I needed to let my creative juices flow freely.
Fast forward through a few years selling insurance, then being an office manager/bookkeeper (see, I did get to use some of my education) for 4 years. Still no sporty husband, still no 2 or 3 kids.
The year I was 25, I had it all (less the hubby and kids). I really did enjoy my job, and I was good at it. I had a great group of friends, owned my own place (roommate free!) and lived in the same town as all my immediate family. I was happy.
Then, God starting doing something in me. It was time to move on. Now I have never been afraid of change – if anything, I crave it – but why would I want to give up a perfectly comfortable life?
Over the next year, the feeling got stronger and stronger but God just kept telling me, “Not yet”. Then, in September of 2004, within a 2 week span I had a new job, trained my replacement at the old job, sold my home and secured an apartment in a new town.
Three years went by there. Career wise, things were good. Promotions, travel for work, a dear friend nearby. Still no husband or kids. The memory of that letter haunted me from time to time. Most of my friends were married, and had or were having kids. I had nieces and nephews that I loved dearly but I longed for my own family.
Late 2006 I did that thing I was never going to do; I set up an EHarmony profile. It took some time, but eventually I connected with this farm boy (who would rather play with a tractor than a hockey stick) from a tiny Prairie town. We talked, we met, we dated and in 2008 we married. I was 30 years old by now. Things were a little behind schedule, but coming along nicely.
Two years later we welcomed our first child. A sweet baby girl who filled me with so much love at times, and so much frustration at others. She was borderline colicky and my husband worked at a job that only allowed him to be home on weekends. At this point I was 1500KM away from my family and didn’t really know anyone well enough to reach out to here.
My Princess grew and learned…and talked and talked and talked. By 11 months she was saying short sentences and being an all around genius (at least in my eyes).
Sixteen months after becoming a mommy for the first time, we did it again. A boy this time. Other than some feeding issues early on, he was one of the most laid back little kids I’d ever seen. The exception was hunger. I’m good, I’m good, I’m hungry NOW!!!
My little champ couldn’t really care less about playing peek-a-boo, or reading countless stories like his sister. Just keep him fed and dry, let him watch the front load washer do a load or two and life was good. He was a much earlier walker than his sister, but not so much with the talking.
We thought we were done. We sold most of the baby gear and I tried to convince my heart that I was okay with these two dears. Hubby got a job with a much, MUCH better schedule, benefits and better pay. No more being sent out. No more being the married single mom anymore.
Through the early years, we had our issues. Big issues. With God’s help and a handful of close, trusted and Godly friends, we overcame these issues and in January of 2013 decided we wanted just one more baby. This time it didn’t happen as easily as the first two. While trying no to worry about not concieving, I was also trying to deny the signs I was seeing in my son. He was two years old and still not overly concerned with talking or interacting. He’s just a little behind. He just has his own interests. Who cares if all he wants to do is recite the alphabet and line up his toys over and over.
Around the same time that we started seeing a local Speech Pathologist, I found out I was finally pregnant! The emotions that accompanied me during my pregnancy were heightened as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that it was more than a little delay with my son. We were referred to a center that deals with special needs children in a nearby city and we have put on many miles going back and forth to appointments. Each and every one worthwhile.
Our third child, another girl, was born a little before our son turned 3. The “A” word was getting brought up more and more to me. I pleaded with God on more than one occasion for that not to be his future. Please don’t punish our sweet, innocent boy for things that aren’t his fault.
The birth of our daughter was a blessing, but for me brought a level of postpartum depression and anxiety I was not prepared for. I sought professional counselling, I tried every trick in the book. I called out to God more times than I could count to take this crippling anxiety from me so that I could be the wife and mother my family needed me to be. I fought and fought and that winter was the hardest of my life. My kids were constantly sick. I could barely function and if one more person offered well-meaning but unsolicited advice I was going to snap. At 10 months old, my daughter was still being nursed. Then she got sick…again. I was done. I weaned her and went on anti-anxiety meds. I knew I needed medication but was holding off because I hoped to nurse for a full year. To be clear, this was what I felt was right for me. Other moms who wean sooner or use nursing friendly meds – I applaud you for doing what was right for you!
I started to feel human again, but depression and anxiety weren’t supposed to be part of my journey. I did NOT write those things in The Letter!
Our son was getting older and the “delays” were becoming more and more obvious and six months ago it became official. He is on the Autism Spectrum. My boy is Autistic. My boy is going to have to fight for every little victory in his life. Things that my girls take for granted, having a conversation, telling me that they don’t feel good, or what they want to play (or don’t want to), these are things my little champ is going to have to work at. And work hard! And he does! He’s still my happy little laid back buddy. He’s a mama’s boy which is fine because my husband has two daddies girls!
More about the diagnoses process another time.
Along with the diagnoses came another BIG decision. One that I have wrestled with since my first pregnancy – schooling. I had felt called to home school for a long time, but it’s intimidating, it’s unpopular in most circles. It’s time-consuming. It’s the right thing to do for my family. My boy is smart! Crazy smart. Like most autistic kids, my son possesses certain skills way beyond his peer group and our local school, I feel, does not have a program that will benefit him. I refuse to let my boy fall through cracks! So right around the time Autism became part of our family identity, so did Home schooling. Another detail that was not in The Letter!
And did I mention that I also work part-time. At one point this winter it was four simultaneous part-time jobs. That also wasn’t in The Letter. There was nothing in there about being a family on a budget.
So Future Me and Real Me don’t quite have our stories straight. Remember “You’ll be married and have 2 or 3 kids by now. You’ll be a stay-at-home mom, but have your accounting degree. Your husband will be awesome. Probably athletic.”? Yeah, real life reads more like:
You have 3 kids, one of them is Autistic and will require a level of parenting you never knew you were capable of. Your husband is great, but he’s an imperfect creation just like you (gasp!). Your girls are strong-willed and will challenge you in new ways in everyday. You will not be one of those moms who has coffee with her friends while the kids are in school because you’ll be in school with them. You’ll be working too. Even though good moms don’t do that (I was an idiot back then).
But here’s where God’s plans prove SO much better than mine. His letter to me would read something like this:
You will learn patience because what you want you’ll have to wait for, with no guarantee that you’ll ever get it. What you think you want won’t take you where I want you to be. That husband who isn’t quite who you expected him to be, he’s the best match for you because you two will compliment each other. That son that some people call “disabled”, I gave him abilities that other people could only dream of. And he’s going to give you the ability to become the mom that I made you to be. He’s going to make you patient and compassionate and fierce. Those girls with the determination and stubbornness, those girls who are just. like. you? Teach them to use their determination well. Teach them to use those traits for My glory and not for their own devices. So here’s the part of your Unexpected Journey that I have revealed to you this far. Just wait to see what’s next!