When you're a parent, you get lots of advice thrown your way--starting from before you even give birth. Some of the advice you nod at and toss away, either because you've heard it before, or because it doesn't apply to you personally, or because it just plain bothers you (I used to get so annoyed by people who casually threw advice about "crying it out our way" when we went through rough sleep patches). But every now and then you get a gem or two thrown your way--advice you hoard and hold onto because you think you might need it one day, it's that good.
1. You're no good as a parent if you don't take care of yourself. (I write this while hacking up a lung from bronchitis, the result, I'm sure, of trying to do to much and be too much to too many people without remembering to take care of myself.)
2. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, or mistake-free parenting; sometimes it's learning from the mistakes that makes us truly good parents in the end.
3. This too shall pass.
Sometime last year I went to one of our monthly parent support group meetings for parents of children with Asperger's and a woman at the table offered this bit of advice: "If I could go back and change anything," she told the group, "I would go back in time and tell the me I was as a parent all those years ago to relax more, and to understand that just because something is the way it is at that very moment, this doesn't mean it will always be that way."
In other words, this too shall pass; my favorite all-time gem of advice, because it's so very, very true.
When we were parents to an infant with colic, and were sucked nightly into that horrible, lonely, abyss where the rest of the world vanishes and it's you and the endless crying that goes on and on and on, we thought life would never ever return to normal again, but it did.
We had a hard time seeing out of those frightening days surrounding T.'s surgery and the even more frightening months filled with specialist appointments after appointments when we worried about everything and couldn't see past it all to a future, but they passed, too.
And that awful, horribly dark year before L.'s diagnosis, when he was 6, and we felt so afraid and alone about what could be wrong with our son, that year felt like it would never end, but it did.
Last year was a rough year, too--perhaps one of the worst we've had in a long while. This Sunday, when we put up the Christmas tree, I suddenly remembered what the day had been like one year ago, when we dug the same tree out of the long cardboard box and matched the color-coded branches to the trunk. It had been a horrible, rocky, meltdown-filled day and L. hadn't even come down from his room to help with the tree--something that had always been one of his favorite things to do. He had no interest in it at all, and was so angry all the time, turning in on himself and lashing out at anyone who tried to help. He had withdrawn so much last year I wasn't sure we could stretch out our arms, bridge that immense gap between us, and ever bring him back. As Scott and T. and I sorted through the prickly mess of branches that day I felt such a heavy sadness inside I could hardly speak.
That day I forgot that hopeful, shining, gem of advice: this too shall pass. If I could go back one year to the me who fought back tears while Christmas songs played in the background and the tree took its magical shape in front of our eyes, I would pat her on the back and tell her, "it's okay, it's going to be okay, this is just one moment."
And it was.