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Nov 06 2017

The 23rd Mile

I am in no way a runner. Not even a little. If you see me running, I recommend you give serious thought to joining me, as I am very likely running from something with fangs or a creature moaning braaaaaaiiiiiinnnnnnsssss. I thought about wanting to be a runner a few years ago and gave that up when my lungs and knees flipped me off, and the overall sense of EVERYTHING HURTS AND I’M DYING took over.

But by god I know marathons; parenting a twice-exceptional kid is a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. It also has the added excitement of jump scares, booby traps, and the very real possibility of a complete nervous breakdown. There’s hardly an opportunity to catch your breath, there aren’t enough water stations, and there are few spectators cheering you on. In fact, most spectators are sneering and shouting about how poorly you’re doing and you should be doing this instead of that and why aren’t you moving faster and how could you possibly be having a hard time, conveniently ignoring the increasing weight of expectations and failed dreams you’re dragging behind you.

You get to a long, flat stretch and think you’ve made it. You have hard-earned skills and confidence and thicker skin from the distance already covered. You can finally breathe a little easier and the remaining spectators are mostly supportive. You’re in a groove and feeling good.

Then parenting turns a corner and you discover you’re only at Mile 23. The finish line, such as it is for parents, is waaaay up there in the distance, hazy and indistinct. The remaining marathon course is uphill, narrow, lined with brambles, pitted with dangerous potholes. Clouds are gathering, and you pray that the storm just holds off for a change, for the love of all things holy and green, my god, please, for a change, please. The weight of expectations you were dragging behind you gets heavier with new hopes for the future, for college, for maybe a little hard-earned normalcy. Spectators return, now in the guise of your own intrusive thoughts and worries, and they’re not only loud but you’re so drained from this race that shutting them up takes more energy than you have.

You can’t go on; you must go on.

Every morning I rise to this uphill and precarious parenting road ahead of me. We have roughly 17 months to get a very twice-exceptional teen ready for whatever comes next (he’s insisting on a 4-year college, I’m wondering how to broach the subject of maybe a gap year) as well as through his Eagle Scout rank. His younger, maybe-2e-maybe-not, brother is three years behind him. It’s been a long and exhausting road to Mile 23, and we have so, so much further to go. While I have gotten much better at self-care, to the point of writing and teaching and presenting on it, it is still exhausting to know that no amount of self-care is going to make this remaining journey any easier. I know I can do it, but still.

We’re at the 23rd Mile, and the only way out is through.

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This post of barely contained panic rolled in a confidence burrito is part of the Hoagies Gifted Education Page November blog hop, on ages and stages. I encourage you to go read the other participants’ offerings!

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  1. Lynn

    My sentinments exactly. I keep thinking tomorrow is a new day and I know there are others out there like me, and sometimes I feel like a crazy person, strapped in a stray jacket, sitting in the corner counting the buttons that hold together the cloth covering the walls… But I like the running analogy MUCH better!
    Exercise, wine and meditation… we will survive this and some day we will laugh at the memories, just like giving birth (just thought I couldn’t push that child out and I was going to die in the process because there’s no way on earth this was normal)… but that day will come. That’s what I keep telling myself. Just keep going or what Dori likes to say “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”… I don’t know. Thank you for sharing exactly how I’m feeling, it’s so good to know there are others out there!

    1. Jen

      Give me strength, I just hope I get through the next five years!

  2. Desiree

    Oh yes – I just got to that corner with my 10 yr old 2e son doing quite well and bang we got stealth dyslexia!

    1. Jen

      I keep thinking our younger son has stealth *something*. :/

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