September 23, 2010
This might sound strange, considering the sort of downer tone my writing has taken over the past few months, but I was a little surprised to hear her say that. I guess I've had a lot of issues concerning finances and my own health that have piled up on top of everything else, but as I said in a recent post, none of those other concerns are ever going to eclipse my worries over Schuyler. Like that anecdotal unconcerned frog in the slowly heating water, however, I think I've become accustomed to my fears.
I write about them here, because I'm a writer and this is where I go to sort these things out. But in my day to day life, I don't think I walk around wringing my hands and muttering to myself, my brows constantly furrowed. That's not me at all. I might live in the shadow of my concerns, but I don't know, perhaps most of the time I just think of it as shade.
The fact is, yeah, I worry. Schuyler's future is daunting, and as more and more of that future turns into the present, the more oppressive that present becomes. Schuyler's own personal development issues are frankly terrifying; she remains an incredibly naive little girl, and middle school does not typically present a very nurturing environment for innocents. I feel like we might be serving her up like a buffet for bullies, and I'm not sure I still have confidence in the school to take care of her.
There are all the other possible future issues to give me fits, too. Bad boys, mean girls, apathetic teachers, poor fathering decisions, bad tween television, a $7000 speech device disappearing, evangelizing Christians, the Plano PTA, Amber Alerts, No Child Left Behind, Lady Gaga worship, pieced ears, boobs, and her first period. And I never allow myself to completely relax about seizures. Some of her monsters are Everygirl monsters, but the ones that are just hers make the rest of them bigger as well.
But here's the thing that's important for everyone to remember, myself most of all. Schuyler's future is murky and unseeable because she is, in a very real sense of the word, entirely unique. She really is that purple snowflake. And while that means that every step feel like it could be the wrong one, it also means that I get to live a life unlike anyone else's.
Schuyler is a little girl with a monster in her head, yes. She uses a computer to communicate, she's going to be in special education classes for the foreseeable future and her prospects for living a completely independent life are questionable at best. She's got some hard years ahead of her, and there's just no way to dodge that.
But Schuyler is also a vibrant, energetic little girl. She's curious and positive and genuinely funny. She's more beautiful than any girl who shares my DNA has any right to be, and she's got a sense of style all her own. She will draw a picture of you in an instant, and you'll always get a crown. Schuyler loves easily and hugely. She takes bites out of the world without hesitation or inhibition, and certainly without regard to how rough that world might be. She might live part of her time in an internal world that she cannot or will not describe in detail to the rest of us, but if you allow yourself to be open to her and the way she expresses herself, she might just let you see snippets of it for yourself.
And I am the guy who gets to be her father.
I am the one who gets to guide her, but I'm also the one who gets to grow with her, and in ways that the rest of you can only glimpse from afar. Schuyler makes neurotypical sound boring. She makes the idea of parenting a typical child with a typical narrative sound a little empty and a little grey. People meet Schuyler and see the astonishing human she's turning into, and they envy me for having her in my life and in my home every day. And they know that as sad as it might sound that Schuyler might spend the better part of her life living with her parents, that scenario might not be all that terrible for me.
And if the fear and the worry and the fight and the sacrifices are the fee I pay to secure the privilege of being Schuyler's father and walking down that path with her for as long as she'll have me and for as long as I'm able, then I would say that I have been blessed with a charmed life.
The anxiety and the fear and the sacrifice, those are the pieces I write about, and I'm sure she's aware of them already on some level. I'm not interested in pretending otherwise; it's the reason I wrote my book, for her to understand one day. But the rest of it, the stuff that makes me richer than anyone I know, the moments of my life that I don't share as often here because they're hard to describe but also because I kind of like keeping them to myself -- that's the stuff by which I believe Schuyler defines her life and her father. And I think that even when things are hard for her, she understands that she's living a bit of a charmed life herself.