I've always thought of myself as a person who did not harbor a lot of lofty expectations about life. I expected to grow up. I expected to always love and be loved by my family. I expect my marriage to last. I expect to die someday, too. But all those in between phases I purposely left as blank as I could. I wanted to be open to new experiences, ideas, and possibilities. I didn't want to be demanding or set my own plans so firmly in stone that if new ones came along I would miss them...or reject them. A good plan, for the most part. Until one day--or a series of days--I realized just what specific expectations I had subconsciously determined would be the way of my life...or more specifically, my child's life.
I expected my daughter Hayden to get older each day. I expected her to begin eating solid foods, walking, laughing, wearing larger clothes. I expected her to outgrow shoes and toys...I expected that she would begin talking. I expected that she would have conversations with her daddy and I. I expected her to one day start school and make friends. I expected her to meet each and every milestone, developmental marker, and grow into a beautiful, young lady with dreams and aspirations of her own.
For the most part, these expectations are pretty run-of-the-mill. But the older she became, the more something just didn't seem quite right. She is, overall, a very happy child. She loves to play with toys, read books, watch kid's programs, and play at the park. But my Hayden didn't call me "Mama" until she was nearly 3. Her speech was slow in coming. We had our worries and did our best to seek guidance and advice from experts. We talked to her; asked her questions; sang her songs. At times, it seemed as if she wasn't really listening to us at all. It almost looked like she was blocking us out. She didn't seem to understand certain questions. If I pointed at her in the mirror and asked her, "Who is that?" She would reply, "Hayden!" But if I asked her, "What's your name?" I could tell that she didn't understand the question.
And then there were her bears. She was given a set of sorting bears for her 2nd birthday. She would dump them out and line them up. She would do this on the couch, on the floor, on the quarter-inch ledge of the open drawer. This is something she still does. She has branched out from the bears and also lines up her "babies" (stuffed animals) and a bowl full of small, plastic animals. She has started lining up the bears, babies, and animals in graceful swags and curl-i-cues.
This called into question her perceptions of the world around her. After a year in Head Start and speech therapy, we decided to have her tested for a formal diagnosis.
This is where my expectations for my child began to crack. I must be clear: I still expect that she will grow into a beautiful young lady and be all that God intends her to be. But her growing-up years will not be typical. She has not met some of those milestones and developmental markers. Those she has not met she will meet but with different challenges than the typical child.
So, I came to a place where I needed to realize and admit that I DID have expectations. Those expectations were not unreal but they must be set aside so that I can understand my daughter and begin to see the world through her eyes.
That is the point of this blog. We have not received a final diagnosis. We will next week. But the horizon of our "new" future is just visible and it is overwhelming, sometimes. I have a new expectation: the next year or so will be, most likely, the most challenging of our life. But I believe God STILL has a plan for my Hayden. He still has a plan for us. And so my adventure with the little lined up bears begins.