I visited an old friend in Chicago this weekend with Sabrina, and saw a couple of people I hadn’t seen since my twenties, before I had kids. This sort of thing is both fun and freaky, because part of me still feels twentysomething (it is not my abs), and it’s hard to believe so much time has passed.
I know how these conversations usually go: We talk about where we live, number of kids, ages, who we married, what we do for a living. We reminisce about activities/parties/good times. Sometimes, we get into discussions about where our children go to school, and I note that Max has disabilities and attends a private school in another town. Sometimes, people ask what he has and when I say cerebral palsy they look troubled and I say, “He’s doing great!”
I wish I could tell them just how far Max has come and how much I’ve learned from him about people with disabilities, but there’s only so much you can get into when you’re standing at a party and catching up . So I show them photos, I look at photos of their kids and we move on. And I end up feeling a little sentimental about how relatively carefree life used to be pre-parenthood, even though it didn’t feel like it back then because work drama and boyfriend drama and family drama is still drama. And I’ll think about how I never could have imagined I’d have a child with disabilities—and how I couldn’t have imagined I’d be lucky to have Max.
A couple of those discussions happened. And then, a woman said something I wasn’t expecting.
“I remember how you were always laughing at something,” she said.
I thought back to that neonatologist in the NICU who I’d wailed to on more than one occasion, and who somberly told me that having Max would change my personality, and she meant not in a good way.
I was definitely a ball of sadness, stress and anxiety early in Max’s life. But then, I returned to me. Not completely the old me, because parenthood can mean being more cautious and less spontaneous than you used to be, in part because of the logistics of bringing our brood along and in part because even if we were by ourselves we wouldn’t want to do anything risky. Dave and I were ice-hiking on a glacier in Alaska in the photo above. These days we’re more like to be hitting Adventureland at Disney.
“You loved to laugh,” that woman added.
“I still do,” I said.
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