If your family is anything like ours, you’ve enjoyed a variety of inside jokes over the years.Most of those on the outside either wouldn’t understand or find the humor in our running gags, but we love ‘em, because they conjure up great memories of priceless family moments.
One such event happened at Disneyland in Anaheim, California a few years back. At the time, we were pretty clueless about the park’s rules concerning the use of wheelchairs.At one point, we approached a popular ride to find a long line whose wait time was being measured in days, not just hours.
In a matter of moments, we went from being excited about the coming fun to lamenting the guaranteed torture of standing with three children in the hot southern California sun.
But suddenly, almost without warning, our fortunes turned once again.
An employee spotted our crew along with Kyle’s wheelchair and approached to inform us that the handicap entrance was around on the other side.When we arrived at the designated spot, we discovered there was really no line at all – and in a matter of a few minutes, we were being ushered to our seats on the ride.
Realizing the gift we were just given, and with unprecedented exuberance, we spontaneously broke into song.We began to sing the lyrics of a number from the classic movie, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory:
“I’ve never had a chance to shine.Never a happy song to sing. But suddenly half the world is mine.What an amazing thing…’Cause I’ve got a golden ticket.”
It was a fun moment, a time when, for a split second we felt like we had come to the only place on earth where having a son with a disability was to our advantage.It was a very small thing, but sometimes small gifts mean the most of all.
But isn’t the life of special needs parents sometimes just that way?In many aspects, our parenting challenges are very similar to those of our peers.After all, kids are kids – but the parent of a special needs child seems to endure greater swings of emotion.Indeed, the highs and the lows – the joys and the sorrows – often seem more pronounced.
And no matter how cool it might feel to be brought to the head of the line, the joy doesn’t make up for a lifetime of surgery and sitting in recovery rooms or sleeping on the fold out chair in a hospital room.
Dennis Prager is a popular talk show host.I have had the opportunity to listen to him from time to time.He suggests that “happiness” is a choice; that despite our circumstances, we simply have to make a conscious decision to be just be “happy.”
I’m not so sure I completely agree.
Talk with parents faced with midnight emergency room visits or frantic 911 phone calls.How about watching your children try to do the simplest of things – or watch the neighborhood kids playing outside, knowing your beloved child will never be in a position to join them.
Happiness isn’t always possible; it’s very often that elusive emotion so dependent upon our circumstances, so entirely outside of our control.Isn’t life a cyclical kind of thing?There are peaks and valleys and plenty of space in between.
Again, it’s been by observation and experience that parents of special needs kids endure greater swings of emotion on a regular basis.In other words, the “highs” are higher and the “lows” are lower.Because we’ve been through the fire more often than most, we can endure and tolerate heat to an even greater degree.At the same time, because of the obvious gap that exists in our homes, we tend to revel in the thrills a bit more effusively than most -- when they finally do come.
When I looked up “happy” on dictionary.com, one of the definitions was as follows:
“Being especially well-adapted.”
Isn’t that interesting? I know that not all parents feel this way, but many of you admirably exemplify this characterization. In fact, I envy the way you’ve met the challenges set before your family. What a wonderful job you’re doing raising your kids!I’m heartened by the sincere happiness I witness in those of you who have figured out that our situations are rarely, if ever, perfect.Yet, you know we can still find moments that make us, as a family, happy.
Maybe this why my family reacted so strongly over a simple thing like getting to move directly to the front of the line.