The Boy used to be full of confidence.He was the kid who would push off from the swimming pool wall solo (during a group lesson when he was supposed to be sitting on the edge with the rest of the 3 year olds), and after the rescue and coughing and spluttering abated, he was ready to go again. He was always plopping down on somebody else's picnic blanket at the park, eager to make new friends of any age. Many times we introduced ourselves to freshly moved in neighbors, only to find The Boy had welcomed them the day their moving truck arrived. He was fearlessly in love with the world and everyone in it, and had no doubts that the world loved him back.
But last year, as his mood disorder began to spin out of control, his confidence started to falter. Fear invaded his heart. Fear of being alone. Fear of darkness. Fear of failure and rejection.
It has been so very, very hard to witness these changes. We have worked hard at establishing the kind of structure and calm that would help him feel safe in the world outside the hospital. I tirelessly attempt to control his environment to reduce his stress.
But, just when I think I have personally aligned the planets to create the mother of all therapeutic home environments...
Sunday afternoon, we headed into DC for a family outing. The pre- inauguration business of the city was such that we decided to turn around and check out nearby Turkey Run Park for a walk in gorgeous weather. I saw a sign that said:
Turkey Run Loop .75 miles
That sounded about right for us given the lateness of the afternoon, the moodiness of our children, and the fact I was wearing museum hopping shoes and not walk-in-the-woods shoes.
So off we went along the quick moving waters of the Potomac.
Down hills. Up hills.
Over logs and boulders.
Slipping over wet stones on three (3!) stream crossings.
The kids were having a blast. But as the sun sank lower on the horizon, my error was becoming increasingly apparant.
.75 miles to the beginning of the loop.
The kids were tired and hungry. It was getting cold. The sun was setting. And The Boy? Is terrified of the dark.
So, not knowing how long the loop actually was, and concerned about poorly marked trails, we opted to turn back the way we came.
The Babe was hungry and tired, and thankfully I had my Nojo Sling so I was able to get him comfy and nursing without taking a break and wasting precious sunlight.
Up hills, down hills.
Over logs and boulders.
Slipping over wet stones on all three stream crossings with nary a wet foot.
By the light of the moon. And the grace of God.
The Boy clung to my hand. Stifling sobs with every leaf rustling wind gust.
But he did it.
I would have never chosen to put him in that situation, but I forgot for a minute that out of adversity comes strength. The Boy had to face his fears and push himself past the limits he had set for himself, finding himself so much braver and more capable than he imagined.
In the end that victory is his and his alone.
And no matter how hard I try to protect him, life happens.
And that is sometimes a very good thing.