Living The Special Needs Life, MilSpouse Style

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Michelle and her boys.

Before children, I was the classic type A, OCD, control freak; marrying a military member introduced me to flexibility, but I still liked to plan things out.  When we went on our honeymoon, I had an itinerary.  I knew children would change my life, but I planned to have children who were good travelers, would eat and behave in restaurants, and who would be calm and quiet. The universe laughed at me and provided me with two children who brought more alphabet soup diagnosis and therapies….which is saying a lot when you consider the military’s love of alphabet soup.

My older son is 5 years old, and is diagnosed with PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental delay, not otherwise specified), anxiety disorder, and developmental coordination disorder.  My younger son is almost 4 years old and diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.  At one point in 2012, our week included 4 speech appointments at school, 1 private speech appointment, one occupational therapy (OT) appointment at school, two private OT appointments, 3 social skills groups, 3 applied behavioral analysis (ABA) appointments, and one appointment with a social worker.  That is 14 appointments a week between two children.  That didn’t include preschool, activities, and play dates.  My life seems to be an endless beeping of my iPhone to get to the next place, along with hours spent in my car.  I schedule play dates and time with friends for my children so they can have a semblance of a normal life.

Remember my ideas of having good travelers?  When we moved from Alaska to the east coast, my older son stayed awake for 48 hours straight, despite taking enough melatonin to put an elephant to sleep.  He chatted away on the plane ride, wanting to know how fast the plane was going, how high we were, and why the plane made so much noise.  Then when we landed, he wanted to go swimming.  He was not tired or grumpy, and his adaption to the change in climate was better than mine.  He simply would not sleep while we were in transit.  Restaurants are challenging because of noises we cannot control which upset my older son and the presence of food which upsets my younger son, who has GERD and does not particularly enjoy eating.

The thought of PCSing puts fear in my heart that most milspouses reserve for deployments.  PCSing means getting EFMP (exceptional family member program) clearance, more IEP (individualized education plan) meetings, waiting lists for private therapists, researching schools, transferring our ECHO (extended care health option) region, and preparing two children who need routine to function for the chaos of moving.  We are preparing to move for the 2nd time in 11 months.  When we settle, my 5 year old will have seen his father assigned 6 bases in his life, and that includes a deployment in the middle.

Thankfully, I have had 5 years is practicing flexibility as I learn to parent my boys.  My younger son’s delays have meant that he cannot undress himself and is far from potty trained.  Yesterday he pulled down the pull-up he was wearing which was filled with poop.  I had to decide whether to be grossed out by the cleaning feat ahead of me, celebrate because he knew he needed a new diaper and managed to pull it down by himself, or laugh at the chaos of my life.  I chose to laugh.  If I had a different type of day, I might have chosen to cry.  Some days I laugh and cry at the same time.

My journey into motherhood has been eye opening and has made me a better person.  People often tell me that my children are lucky to have me as a mother.  I guess they are talking about my background as a lawyer and psychologist, which has been useful in advocating for them.  They might mean my level of dedication and commitment.  Either way, they are wrong.  I am the lucky one.  My children have challenged me to grow and learn on a daily basis.  They have taught me to embrace the small moments and recognize that every developmental step is a miracle.

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