If I had a genie, or a leprechaun, or some other mythical creature who’s sole point of existing was to grant wishes, there are a ton of wishes I would unload on him. Oh who am I kidding. I’d lock that little beast in the dog kennel, I have so many wishes. None of that three-and-out for me. But since I live in the real world, the one without pots of gold, winning the lottery, or Extreme Home Makeover in my front yard. I’ve had to make my own luck. Not all my choices have turned out for the best, of course, but the choices I’ve made had put me where I am today. And while I wish some things could have been different, those past choices, as is often rightly said, make me who I am. These are a few choices that have shaped my life the most.
Choice One: Marrying Tom
When we first met, we didn’t really like each other much. We were both 18, it was our Freshman year of college, and I was seriously dating a guy that Tom could not stand. This was not a mild dislike. Tom is a very mild mannered guy and this is the one person he says, to this day, he’d cross the street to punch in the face. It was probably because this guy was an arrogant prick and didn’t treat me very nicely (why I didn’t realize that I have no idea). So when, six months later, I got engaged to said prick, Tom wrote me off as a ditz. It took another year for me to realize what Tom (and countless others) had tried to get me to see. The arrogant, not so nice boyfriend was, well, arrogant and not so nice. It took another two years before Tom and I began dating but, once we did, it went pretty fast. We started dating, moved in together, and married all in15 months, and this past August, we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. I know that if I’d married the prick my life would have been miserable, and I’d probably be divorced. Instead, I have a loving and supportive partner that I genuinely adore.
Choice Two: Choosing Tom to be the stay at home parent
When we were the parents of just one child, we arranged our schedules so that Wonderboy, our oldest son, didn’t have to be in daycare. Tom worked weekends, I worked early morning shifts, and my mom helped by watching Wonderboy a few hours a few afternoons a week when our schedules overlapped. We kept this routine after we adopted Tim, but it wasn’t long before we realized something was up with him. I was offered a promotion at work, but it came with a transfer from Los Angeles to Atlanta. We decided it was a good opportunity, and with Tim’s emerging needs and losing Oma as daycare, we decided to bite the bullet and become a one income family, with Tom as the stay at home parent. It’s had its bumps, living this choice. I’ve been laid off three times since we set our lives up this way. We’ve moved five times chasing my career. We could have stayed in LA and I could have stayed at home with the kids, but I know I would not have been anywhere close to as good at is as Tom is. I’m type A, he’s type…C, maybe even D. He’s calm in a crisis, I’m a mess. He never gets ruffled, I’ve got a hair trigger temper. He loves to cook, I would eat take out if he wasn’t around. He coached little league and Pop Warner, and led a Cub Scout pack for nearly a decade with joy and vigor. I probably would have taken half of those parents’ heads off at one time or another. He’s been to every doctor’s appointment, every therapist’s office, every hospitalization, every IEP meeting and at the end of every day he is relaxed and calm. That’s why this works. I get to be the advocate, loud and in front, and he gets to be the rock, a steady foundation holding us all together. We played to our strengths, even if we didn’t realize we were doing it at the time we decided.
Choice Three: Moving – and moving, and moving
We’ve moved five times in 21 years, chasing career opportunities. Every time we moved it seemed to be the right decision. We sat down together and weighed the pros and cons. In hindsight, we probably wouldn’t have made a few of them. Wonderboy took most of them very hard, hating moving away from friends and schools he’d attached to. When we made the last move to Illinois he was 14 and about to start high school. He sat us down and made us promise that we wouldn’t move until he graduated, and considering he’d been in four different schools between Kindergarten and Eighth Grade, we promised, and we’ve stayed put for six and a half years and counting. Every move meant resetting an IEP for Tim and, eventually, for The Girl as well, which I’m sure contributed to how hard it has been to get Tim stable and it’s definitely contributed to the deepening of The Girl’s social anxiety. The job we moved to San Francisco for, during the dot com boom, didn’t last long and the job we first moved to Illinois for was so miserable that I sunk into depression and left the company with no idea how I’d find another. We’re determined to stick here in Illinois. I am no longer as ambitious about climbing the corporate ladder as I used to be, and the services for Tim are much better here than they were in California or Georgia. Tom is close to his beloved homeland of Wisconsin, and we’ve made some great friends. So that’s decision, four, actually, isn’t it?
There are other choices in the past and more choices to come, some I can see and some that have yet to be revealed. And if I am the sum of my choices, good and bad, I’m glad that at least I’ve had the courage to make a choice, even when the options weren’t clear or were difficult to justify. I hope I have the courage to continue making them. There are some difficult ones coming up, as the children age to adulthood. Scary ones too, right around the corner. I’ve weighed the options of some decisions here since 2009 and I will definitely do that with guardianship and whether to move Tim to another residential soon. I guess that’s choice five, if I wanted to title it – the choice to blog and get your input on some of these tough decisions. That has been one of the most beneficial choices yet.