I've realized that there are some ways in which the isolation which came with the pandemic did not feel new to me because for the past 18 years we've been responsible for an eternal toddler who must be watched at all times else he get into all manner of trouble. This has not meant that we couldn't go out or see people or travel but it has meant that we do much less of these things than many of my friends and neighbors. My husband and I have been tethered by Josh's needs, sensitivities and limitations.
This photo is from a recent day when we left him alone in the bathroom for just a little too long. Someone had started him in the tub without putting everything away so Josh poured an extra large jug of Head and Shoulders into the tub and then pushed the jacuzzi jet button. I walked in to find most of the bathroom filled with a hip high layer of bubbles.
My first thought was "Oh my God. We can never leave him alone ever. I have to give up everything I ever wanted to do outside of this house. I will never have freedom and independence ever again."
Where did that come from? After all, I have a full time job and an office that I can go to even during Covid. I have the partnership of a wonderful and capable spouse who is currently taking the lead role with Josh. I now even have two in-house teen aged babysitters who say that they will only charge us "half price" from their usual rates when they babysit other people's kids (actually, they don't really charge us but often insist that we Doordash them something).
I think that it's triggering for me when we have an incident like this because it exposes my fear; fear that Josh will never grow in independence, fear that something really bad will happen to Josh because we weren't watching him well enough, fear that we will not have a good future because of who Josh is.
It really is more about the fear of the future because the present is pretty ok.
What is the antidote for this kind of triggered fear?
First of all, breathing. Sit. Breathe. Wait. Keep breathing. Feel the fear. Breathe again. Wait some more.
Secondly, and this is way later after your actual body has calmed down, ask. Ask yourself what is going on. Ask God to help you. Ask your body, how it's doing. I think that slowed down asking is really good.
Finally, wait for grace. Seriously, grace usually comes when we ask and when we're open. That grace might be through peace or perspective or a memory or humor. The grace might come much, much later and it might be really tiny but my life experience tells me that grace does come. And when you see it or sense it, take it in. You need it. You were made for it.
I did this just now and the new perspective that I received was that I am tethered to Josh but through the lens of grace, I believe that it is a good thing. Messed up bathrooms can be cleaned but the love and transformation that comes from my relationship with my son will be forever.