By: Cindy Durkee
I recently came across a meme stating, “If parenting came with a GPS, it would mostly just say- RECALCULATING.” I agree! Parenting is a life-long learning experience. Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, the ages and stages of our children shift, we face unexpected circumstances and we find ourselves navigating uncharted territory.
During my early parenting years, I must admit I tended to be pretty rigid. I like a schedule and structure and attempted to keep everything as planned as possible. However, life is filled with twists and turns and unexpected changes. When my son was ten years old, we were vacationing with family and he could not quench his thirst, took several trips to the bathroom, and was unusually tired. After trying different home remedies, I decided to take him to the local ER where he was taken in for blood tests. Moments later, the doctor came in and said, “Your son has Type 1 Diabetes.” What?? My heart pounded, I felt nauseous and my thoughts began racing- I thought it was a UTI. What is Type 1 Diabetes? What is the cure? He was admitted to the ER and in the next 24 hours, we discovered our lives would forever be changed because this requires daily management to stay alive and there isn’t a cure. Two years later my daughter received the same diagnosis. Embrace change? Find joy in it? This has been and continues to be my greatest challenge. Over the years, we have encountered many detours and unplanned events. Although incredibly difficult in the moment, these experiences have taught me to let go of rigidity and control, adjust my expectations, and work to accept change=Recalculate!
Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” illustrates change as an inevitable part of reality. He uses a parable about mice to teach how to embrace change: expect it, overcome fear, envision success, and find joy in the process. Personally, I'm someone who enjoys organized checklists and neat segments in life, so truly "finding joy" in change has been a work in progress. I can’t say I enjoy watching two children face their chronic illness daily, however, it has made all of us stronger, closer, more empathetic, and grateful. We have found courage that we didn’t know existed, developed a passion for advocating for a disease we knew little about, and met amazing people along the way that we wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m learning to shift my expectations, prepare for alternative outcomes, embrace chaos, and learn that detours don’t have to be detrimental. Recognizing where we have successfully navigated through change helps me to overcome my fear of future change and anticipate positive outcomes.
As parents, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. It is important to remember that each stage of our children’s lives brings unique challenges for them and us, challenges we’ve never faced before. It may be an unexpected diagnosis, broken relationships, not making a sports team our child had hoped for, transitioning to a new school, adjusting to college life…
We need to give ourselves grace because there is not a one size fits all formula for parenting and change is inevitable. We grow and learn from redirection. Rather than looking at detours as roadblocks, we can remind ourselves it’s time to recalculate, as we've encountered change in the past and are stronger for it. Looking back on the countless times when things didn’t go as planned, I’m genuinely grateful for all the ways we’ve grown as a family. The journey is causing us to become more flexible, accepting, empathetic, grateful and self-aware human beings.
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