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Laura Rossi Totten

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What to Expect When You're Not Expecting the Unexpected

Posted: 05/08/2012 1:12 pm

Life is full of expectations -- especially when we become parents. But instead of What to Expect When You're Expecting, after nine years of parenting twins I am convinced that a better parenting manual title is a quote from the trailer of the about-to-be-released movie of the same name: No Such Thing As Ready!

To illustrate this point:

In a period of eight days, my nine-year-old son received a diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome and his twin sister broke her leg.

In every family -- typical or special needs -- we each fulfill roles: first born, middle child, baby; peacekeeper, trouble-maker, black sheep; independent, needy, stubborn. I believe it's what happens when we are faced with the unexpected -- and are forced to change those roles -- that progress can happen.

As our daughter's bone slowly mends, something else is quietly -- and unexpectedly -- healing and changing: our family. After nine years of tests, specialists and missing pieces, and for the first time since he was born, it finally doesn't feel like a piece of our boy is missing, but instead like he is whole. And that has been wholly healing for our family.

In an ironic twist, something literally had to break before things could be fixed. The fortuitous by-product of his twin sister's injury: our daughter needs more attention and care than our son. Coming on the heels (no pun intended) of what I refer to as D-Day (Diagnosis Day), this role reversal has been surprising, inspiring and miraculously healing for our family and for M, our son.

J's freakish accident subtly shifted her bone and that break combined with the surprising Tourette news subtly shifted our family dynamic. We certainly weren't ready for either.

Mid-May marks both the beginning of National Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month and the launch of the new film What To Expect When You're Expecting.

In that spirit, here are Nine Ways Parents Can Embrace The Unexpected:

1. AUTO FOCUS:
Whether you are helping a child with a broken leg or math homework, remember to focus on that one task. By focusing on a specific job, you'll neutralize confusion and when you reach your goal you'll be ready for the next challenge.

2. THE EXPECTED VS. UNEXPECTED: Embrace change. The very first thing you learn about motherhood -- and I'm talking from the exact moment of conception (in my case twins!)-- is you can't have any expectations at all. This is a great place to start your day, every day.

3. PATIENCE AND PATIENTS: Both are hard to handle but you can. Take deep yoga breathes and muster up that last ounce of patience and you will be ready to deal with your patient or lack of patience after those deep belly breathes.

4. THE CAN-DO COACH: Shhhh....we all have a secret weapon: the"Can-Do Coach." This Coach is there to help and encourage and cheer 24/7 -- and especially when there is a big challenge. Kids have one and so do grown-ups. The best thing: The Can-Do Coach is an expert at everything -- math quizzes, sports, social situations, broken legs and more.

5. YOU. ARE. ENOUGH.: Focus on what you have and who you are right now in this very moment. That is all you need. (Full disclosure: my mom-blogger pal Elena of Just. Be. Enough has a lot to do with this one)

6. SENSORY SENSEI: Our son has a sensory processing disorder. This makes him VERY sensitive to external and internal stimuli. His extra sensivitity teaches us every day to be mindful of others (family and friends) and that being sensitive is a good thing.

7. GET A REFILL:
When the proverbial glass starts to look a little low, then fill it up. Nothing helps more than the positivity of a "glass-half-full."

8. WHY THE COLORFUL BIRD SINGS:
On the toughest days, you can find the best unexpected gifts. And so, if your daughter is in a toe-to-thigh bright blue cast, paint her toe nails green and yellow and orange and turquoise. Channel your inner fashionista and go for the Color Block look. Color makes you smile -- even sing. In fact, I'm staring at my notes from M's neurology appointment and his diagnosis is written in hot pink sparkle gel pen.

9. STICK TO A TRAINING SCHEDULE: Sprints are easy, but marathons -- like parenting -- require training along with dedication, commitment, time, patience, sweat, tears, and a can-do attitude. Add a healthy dose of spirit, hope, and love and I promise you (now that I've recently completed my first half marathon) that you will cross the finish line every time.

Although it feels like another lifetime has passed since D-Day/Broken Leg Day, it's only been about two weeks. *Embracing the unexpected is a gift you can give yourself and your family every day.

(*As I typed that last line, I received a call from school that my son has a rash. I'm dashing off to get him but I promise to report back on today's unexpected gift -- that is as soon as I figure out what it is!)

 
 
 

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