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Watching the Clock Only Compounds Grief

July 18, 2010

Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.
-Sam Levenson

Thanks to David Sexton for his latest guest post, What Day Is Today, in The New York Times’ Motherlode parenting blog for a glimpse into the rhythms of a house where a child with special needs lives. Since I could relate to so much of what he was saying about time being filled with doctors, therapists and mysterious middle-of
-the-night needs that jar him awake, I added this to the comments section:

We have a 7-year-old son with an unidentified genetic syndrome, which includes significant low muscle tone and other medical and developmental issues. All these years, while other families have been rushing out the door to soccer and t-ball and playdates, we’ve been rushing out to speech therapy and physical therapy and the pediatric specialist-du-jour. Marking time not by the “What to Expect” books but by our son’s own personal milestone schedule. Learning whole new meanings of the word patience (though not always succeeding at translating them into our reality).

I love what David says about his house experiencing “that feeling that lifts all the emotional energy into something like a light fever.” That’s an apt description for what I’ve tried to describe to friends as the mental energy that goes into having a child with special needs. The constant vigilance over therapies, medical treatments and physical safety, as David said, can take a toll on family life — and sleep!

The good news is that it’s gotten a bit easier as he has gotten older and better able to express his basic needs. There aren’t so many middle-of-the-night moments where we’re trying to guess what he needs (though that doesn’t mean they’ve completely disappeared). It’s also easier now that most of his therapy sessions take place at school. There aren’t quite so many appointments to keep track of.

Like David, we know how lucky we are. And it doesn’t hurt that our son now knows how to tell time, too.

The writer says it’s better when he and his family just keep moving. When we’re sprinting out the door, I feel like we’re doing something important — or at least doing something. We’ve been told that our son wouldn’t be where he is now without the hundreds and hundreds of therapy sessions he’s had. Was every one of those sessions productive? Certainly not. Have there been plateau times or slow times when we wondered, “Is this it? Is this the best we can hope for?” Sure. Sometimes progress has been slower than expected, but I can’t stop too often to watch the clock or I’ll end up making myself crazier than I already am. Clock watching would only compound the grief. The best thing I can do is just keep moving forward — adjusting course when necessary — and hope for the best.

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2 Comments
  1. AmyMec permalink

    As a woman who’s been watching a different kind of clock, this is very illuminating. Things happen in their own time, and as much as we’d like to be productive, sometimes “doing all we can” is just living life without wondering what time it is.

  2. Michelle Buzgon permalink

    AmyMec wrote: “… sometimes “doing all we can” is just living life without wondering what time it is.”

    Amy, you are so wise. That’s exactly the goal. Living in the present. Accepting what is, just because it is. That’s peace. When we want this moment to be different, that’s when we suffer.

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