My New Normal: My Kids (and the Rest of Us) Are Alright
Robin Finn, MA, MPH, is an author, essayist, and advocate for ADHD and twice-exceptional kids. She has master’s degrees in public health from Columbia University and spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica, but her greatest lessons come from raising three spirited children. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and can be […]
Robin Finn, MA, MPH, is an author, essayist, and advocate for ADHD and twice-exceptional kids. She has master’s degrees in public health from Columbia University and spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica, but her greatest lessons come from raising three spirited children. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and can be found online at robinfinn.com/.
“It’s your spine,” the reflexologist says, pointing to my neck and shaking his head. “C4 and C5, no good. Your body’s braced-very bad. For a very long time.”
“Is it the fibromyalgia?” I ask. It plagues me-the burning feet, the muscle aches, the tiredness. He shakes his head and forms his hands into fists. “So tight. That’s why you have pain.”
I’ve been to the neurologist, the rheumatologist, and the acupuncturist, but nothing helps. A friend of mine swears by Dr. Chang, so I decide to give him a try. He says he can help me, but it will take a while. My body’s braced-very badly-and it has been for years.
It’s time to make my health a priority, I tell myself. I want everything to be OK. Things are finally better, calmer, around our house. We’re in a good place. My “twice exceptional” son-gifted and with significant ADHD and other challenges-hasn’t had a meltdown in months. There are no calls from the principal, no e-mails from other parents. We even went to El Torito on my birthday and made it through the meal-my two daughters, my son, my husband and me-without anyone crying or storming out of the restaurant. I want it to stay that way.
I know I’ve been in lockdown mode-endlessly advocating for years for my son. I’ve battled the school for services and accommodations. I’ve confronted teachers for support. I’ve fought with principals, the school district, and sometimes, other parents. And I have two daughters who also need my attention.
The evening of the doctor’s visit, I sit on my bed and think about what the doctor said. My nine-year-old daughter lies next to me reading a book. Suddenly, she looks up ands says, “I always read ahead. I know I’m not supposed to. But I need to know what happens at the end.”
“I do, too,” I tell her, smiling into her brown eyes. She has no idea how much money I’ve spent at The Psychic Eye. I need to know what happens at the end so I can prepare. I often characterize our house as a war zone where I’m the soldier, commanding officer, frontline medic, and PTSD veteran. Years of tension, tight lips, and folded arms, bracing myself-all of us-for the next problem, hoping my defenses will withstand the assault.
Then, the unexpected happens: My son lies down on the bed next to my husband. They look through an anatomy book together. My daughter curls up under my arm. Everyone is together and nothing is wrong. Suddenly, we are lighter-hearted and laughing. Everything in the house seems to have a shine. I can’t explain it, but there’s a shift and I understand something: I can’t keep up the vigilance. The toll is too great.
I need new normal-not a flash of feeling “up” before a giant rush downward, not a brief reprieve or a moment of accidental relaxation, but a new normal. I feel myself relax in my body as I look around the room: My daughter is in a white, oversized T-shirt, the one that once belonged to my dad; my son and husband are cuddled up in a private world of science and body parts; and me, phone in hand, waiting for my high-schooler to call, ready to be picked up after late rehearsal, ready to come home to the five of us, as imperfect as we are. I put down the phone.
“That’s why you have pain,” Dr. Chang tells me-I have to stop bracing myself. My daughter always reads ahead. And I do, too. I need to know how things turn out for this family. I don’t know and I can’t know, but I’ve spent so many years trying, that it’s hard to stop.
But my kids are doing well, and so is my husband–poring over a college anatomy textbook, his hand slowly rubbing our son’s back. I don’t know how long this moment will last-nobody does-but, maybe, it doesn’t matter. I’ve spent years believing that if I fortified myself enough, I could make things turn out right. But I can’t. And, maybe, that’s OK.
I glance at the phone on my dresser. I know it will ring, but I don’t have to wait for it. I’m living a new normal. When my daughter calls, I’ll get up, find my keys, and pick her up from school. But for now, I tell my kids and my husband to move over, kick off my shoes, and lay down next to them.
Updated on May 27, 2021