I haven’t touched on this in a while, but most of our friends, family and my OG readers know that our son, Sterling, has cerebral palsy. His CP is mild and undetectable to most people, so much so that when he was a baby, I brought it up with any doctor we’d come into contact with because nobody else but me saw anything to be concerned about. I just saw something subtly different about how he held his left and hand foot. Ever so subtly.
All the doctors we saw did all the right things to check him out. Checked his walking, balance, motor skills, and development. Everything was on track. It wasn’t until he was three-years-old and our pediatrician said if I was still concerned to go see one more orthopedist and a neurologist.
The last orthopedist we went to saw it, and it’s too emotional for me to rewrite, but you can read that here. The best news is that CP doesn’t get worse, so we know what we’re dealing with and Sterling will live a normal life and be whatever his little heart desires when he grows up. As he has lengthened out, though, his muscles have gotten tighter on that left side, and he’ll start wearing an orthodic during the day for now, for the first time, and a conversation with him about that last night spurred this week’s article.
Sterling is almost six and six-year-olds ask really tough questions. The truth is, sometimes as a parent, you just don’t know what to say.
Most days it doesn’t come up, but when he’s feeling particularly vulnerable and human, the “why me” questions come. He understands about his body and his CP, and sometimes he gets frustrated with his left hand for being a little less strong than his right, or his left foot, for sometimes getting tripped up or not letting him run as fast as some of the other kids on the playground.
He recently started wearing an orthodic at night to train his muscles in his lower leg and foot to stay loose while he sleeps. He’s also going to start wearing an orthodic for eight hours per day for now for the same reason, and it will be the first time he will have anything outwardly different from other kids.
Matt and I always tell him “Everyone has something they’re dealing with (or have dealt with, or are not dealing with), whether you can see it or not”.
You know. That part of the human condition.
We always stress to him how fortunate he is, how mild his CP is. Highlight his strengths, all the beautiful things in his life. He has a family who super-duper-loves and supports him, he could basically be a supermodel (I mean, house rules say he has to finish college first, but then, go ahead, Sterling, enjoy your 20s and gallivant around France and be the muse for Givenchy or whatever), he’s off the charts smart, hilarious, and empathetic. He definitely pulls some six-year-old bs, too (if you’ve recently had a child in the 5-6-year-old range, I know you feel me cause I’ve had a couple now).
So he asked me last night, “Well, what does Scarlet have to deal with”?” “What do you have to deal with?” He leaves Matt out of this because he knows Matt has Juvenile Diabetes. It’s hard when you’re tired and the day is done to know what to say to be comforting and like, I dunno, other-worldly philosophical.
I didn’t have the words. I literally just said the first thing that came to my tired head. “Well, if it weren’t for modern medicine…scratch that. Um…Scarlet was stuck when she was in my tummy and mommy had to have an emergency surgery to get her out. And I, well…mommy has had to come to terms with anxiety and when I was your age, my parents were really young and divorced in the 80s, which weren’t as precious for kids, and the questions in my life were who I was going to live with, not “hey, she got more time on the iPad than meeeee”.
I’m not sure how helpful I was after a full day when bedtime is supposed to be wrapped up and there’s still more work to do. But, well, it’s true. Everybody has something they’re dealing with or have dealt with or are running from and sometimes they don’t even realize it about themselves yet. You can’t always see it on the outside.
It’s communal and helpful to know that you’re not the only one struggling with something — in fact, I’ve noticed it’s a main focal point on Headspace Meditation. Anything for the greater good — centering yourself for the greater good, and remembering everyone you come into contact with has their own ego, and critical mind and hopefully journey to contentment, as well.
So while I want Sterling to understand he’s not alone in having something he has to come to terms with, work with and sometimes overcome in his life, my hope for him is that he’ll hit that ultimate peace that comes from accepting yourself, the situation you’re in, and then turning on your fire and doing your best with whatever hand you’re dealt. Life is not fair. Laura taught me that and it’s broken up many a fight between my big kids. Of course we try to be fair-ish, but that’s not always the reality of life. The reality is, you need to do your very best with what you’ve got and keep yourself centered while you do it.
We are all in this human thing together. Dichotomous in our strength and fragility. In our seriousness and jest. In our individual hopes, dreams and doubts.
Harnessing empathy and compassion for ourselves and letting it seep out onto one another is one of the hardest things we can do. Trust me, I know — I’ve been to the DMV recently.
I don’t always know the right thing to say to Sterling, or to anyone for that matter, but like, no one really does. Showing up for one another in all of our humanness? I’m just gonna keep doing that with whatever I’ve got and keep on showing my kids it’s all about the perspective you take.
“Life is what you make it “ – Eleanor Roosevelt
I’m so excited to be partnered with Osmo, an award-winning play learning device and app for kids on iPad and Fire Tablet and iPhone. My kids are obsessed with their new Super Studio where they get to play interactive games with their favorite Disney characters and bring their drawing come to life. It’s really cool and I totally got to prep an entire dinner while they played together (but separate, haha). Scarlet and Sterling have Disney’s Incredibles and Mickey Mouse and you can find those here! You can also catch video of them playing with it on stories on my Polite As Fudge Instagram today!