Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Families are never 'perfect'. Perfectly imperfect is more of an apt description that we should consider. Every family looks different. Every family goes through their struggles, their victories and their failures. As is true to societal norm, we do not wear these particular 'garments' for everyone to see. Generally, we are quite picky about the people we allow into our inner circle of vulnerability. Inevitably, at some stage, things might go array. So, what happens when the wheels do come off? What happens when the picture we have created
disappears? If like me, your family wagon limps along on three and half wheels, then I would say that your family is pretty much on the right track. That beautiful perfectly imperfect journey is, actually, more normal than you would think.
Sometimes allowing the wheels to come off is exactly the catalyst you need in order to allow change to take place. When you can no longer control the narrative, you are forced to pause... to consider that there is another way. For us, the wheels have come off more times than I can count. We are a family who wear our scars and carry our vulnerability with pride. That may seem strange to some, that's okay. The beauty of the way we walk through life is that people are often drawn to us. They see something familiar in us. It's not that we are better than anyone, it's more that we have walked through so much and there is a rawness to our family. There is a realness about who we are. We are human. We make mistakes. Cross lines. We get it wrong. We also forgive. We strive to understand what we can do better the next time around. We want to do better.
Admitting that you are wrong is always difficult. Admitting that you are wrong as a parent to your children, for whatever reason, is even more difficult. If you cannot admit when you are wrong, especially as a parent, it will seem catastrophic when the wheels come off. What we have learnt through the past few years is that being able to admit where we have gone wrong is half the battle won. We have learnt that the wheels coming off is not necessarily a bad thing. We have learnt that the wheels are going to come off at some stage, whether you like it or not. We have learnt not to be afraid.
Like many subliminal messages that society sends us, the fear of failure is a big one. Failing is seen as weak. Failing is seen as wrong. Failure is not an option. This is why, when people fail, they have no idea what to do. As a mom of three children, I can distinctly remember feeling like a failure most of the time. My kids were somehow always on the back end of everything. Whilst other kids were busy in the holidays with sports clinics of all kinds, my kids were swimming, playing hockey in the garden, riding bikes and going to the park. By the time we arrived back at school, many kids were streets ahead of us sports wise and I always felt like I was heading into a race on the back foot. I never knew about the sports clinics and sports workshops, let alone how to get onto the mailing list! Academically, I thought my kids were quite sound, but some teachers were quite willing to tell me that my kids were average. What we realised later on is that we were average for that particular school. Once they hit high school, we understood that our kids were actually very hardworking and intelligent. The problem was that none of them could 'fit into the box'.
Eventually, with an ulcer in my stomach and my nerves completely frayed, I stepped off the hamster wheel. We moved suburbs to a quieter part of our city, and I started the process of allowing my kids to be kids again. It was not received well by many people but the 'many people' were not my priority. My family and their health were and still are. There are many 'friends' with whom I have lost contact. That's okay. Though it's sad, it was completely necessary. What soon became clear, was that we needed to be here, in this place, at that particular time in order to be able to heal from what was to come.
In the last two years, the wheels have certainly come off. Amidst the onslaught of clinics, autism diagnoses, anxiety diagnoses as well as dealing with several autoimmune diseases, we would never have been able to deal with any of it had we stayed where we were. Although the wheels came off, we had a soft landing. We had the right support system as well as each other. We were able to breathe and take it slow. It was harrowing and heart-breaking... and we are still healing.
When the wheels come off, it usually means you need to stop. If the wheels are not moving, there isn't anywhere to go. So, we took the hint. Everything that was not a priority took a back seat. People who couldn't or wouldn't understand were relegated. We did not have the emotional capacity or energy to explain, ask for understanding or beg for support. Those who took the time to give to us whatever they were capable of giving at the time, were those we held on to. We learnt how to receive well. We learnt how to rely on others. We learnt that we are most certainly not alone.
So, if your wheels are coming off, do not allow shame, judgement or condemnation to dictate your next move. Stop. Breathe. Open your heart. Those who can, will be there, even if it's in the most minuscule of ways. Be ready to receive. Your vulnerability is a testimony and even whilst in the midst of the tumultuous seas, you will be helping others in the best kind of ways. You are not a failure. It is merely time to stop. Re-evaluate your surroundings and your position. Step off the path and find out where it is that these lessons are taking you. Take your time. My tumultuous tide brought me here. To you. There's power in that! There is power in your journey too. There is power in your story. The lessons you learn are not meant to be squandered. They are meant to be passed on. People need to know. People will be inspired. I know it seems difficult right now, but it won't last forever! Until next time... with love and admiration for you all.