I woke up to an interesting email that allowed me to start my day in a contemplative mood, and I'd like to share my answer.
I understand how scary the future can be, how fear can twist one's belly into knots. My oldest is 21; we were told when he was five a whole string of negatives, of things he'd never do, and it was pretty bleak. At nine he had a stroke, and it got bleaker. At 12 we were told to give up hope he'd ever read.
And all of that could have sunk me into despair and sometimes did. But it also galvanized me, pushed me towards action. We had to get guardianship when Bobby was 18. It was rough to accept. He got SSI at 19, when we finally admitted he needed to have that if he wasn't going to work.
But we still haven't given up working with him on building new skill sets, in pushing out past his comfort zones. He volunteers at the animal shelter, and he's grown more confident and capable of talking to strangers. He helps grocery shop and now navigates the store with a list he made out, and he checks out and gets the groceries to the car while I work on my list. He cooks half the meals now, too, digging laboriously through the recipe books and working hard, because this is his dream job: he'd like to be a cook. And we've had some mistakes and missteps, but he continues to grow and build new skills and learn from those mistakes.
And each new skill he masters, even though it takes a while, even though we have to really break it down into the constituent parts and work on it, brings me hope for him. He's not done; his story isn't over, and in the end, he will determine how far he goes. I have to believe in him, in his ability to continue to grow, to show me that he can shine.
He cannot have hope, he cannot build on those mistakes, if I lose my way, if I quit on him. I know it can be hard and sometimes we have to give ourselves a break. We need to acknowledge our emotions, where we are, accept those emotions, so that if they are holding us back we can move past them.
Our children, even when we think they aren't paying attention, do pick up on our emotional states; they read our despair, our bitterness, our fears, and our worries. They may not know what to do with it, how to react to it, but it resonates through their cores, just as it resonates through us, and I think it's one of the biggest stumbling blocks we face in moving forward.
In the end I have no real answers, no crystal ball on what will become of my children when my husband and I are no longer here; all I can do is arm them with the tools they need to navigate the world, the trust in each other that together they are stronger and more capable than they are alone, and work to make the world a more accepting place so that their lives will be easier, so that their community will be supportive. I cannot control outcomes, and I must relinquish the belief that I can and instead put in place a solid foundation for my three so that they will have plenty to build on. And in that preparation of the foundation, I find my hope, I find my peace, at least briefly. Sometimes that's all we get, and we must learn to live in those moments so that they carry us through darker times and back into the light.
Ultimately it becomes a situation like the bear hunt. We can't go under it, we can't go over it, we can't go around it: we must simply go through it, even though it leaves us shaking and exhausted.