Aug. 28, 2019

Control

“Got my own mind
I wanna make my own decisions
When it has to do with my life, my life
I wanna be the one in control”

-Janet Jackson

I tripped and fell while holding my daughter this morning.

It was as scary as it sounds. Every bit as shocking as I have dreamt for years it would be. As a man with a physical disability, I have always wondered about my instability and how it would affect my ability to care for my children. When Megan and I got pregnant, that fear became real and consistent. It was the largest concern before she arrived.

Throughout the first 5 months of her life, I have stumbled here and there but never actually tripped and fell. I am usually so hyper-focused when I am holding her that my stability increases.

And yet this morning, on my way to the couch to feed her, I tripped over a blanket that was left on the floor. Amelia was in my left arm. As I was headed down, instinct clearly kicked in because my left arm tightened around her and my right arm went out to break my fall on our coffee table.

Amelia didn’t drop, although her head did bump into mine pretty hard. She started crying. I instantly started repeatedly calling out, “I have her! I have her! I have her!” so that Megan in the next room would know the most important information. Amelia hadn’t been dropped. I quickly got up and sat on the couch. The baby looked fine. I put the bottle to her mouth and she instantly stopped crying and went about eating breakfast. I went about the process of breathing, snapping out of shock mode, and starting to absorb the four thousand thoughts running through my head.

These thoughts were, to the best of my honest recollection:

  • I’m the worst parent.
  • Do I even deserve to be a parent?
  • It wasn’t a fault issue, it was an accident.
  • I don’t care, it was my fault.
  • It’s a man’s job to protect his child.
  • It’s my job to teach my child that a disabled man can care for his child. Bumps and all.
  • Do I honor Amelia by not carrying her consistently?
  • How does a disabled parent decide what is safe and what is not for their care of their children?
  • Can I even control any of this?

And that brought me to the bigger picture here: control. And the complete lack of it that I possess these days. In retrospect, it is the hardest and the best part of parenting so far. The sheer and total lack of control. I can’t determine when she will sleep and when she won’t. Sure, there are patterns of repetition that create semblance of schedule, but she sharply waits for the very day that I outwardly acknowledge the success of a desired pattern, and completely jumps off board. I can’t predict her smiles any more than I can her outbursts. I can’t seem to always find the right way to hold her or lift her up that prevents her from flailing just the wrong way as to stop my heart. And I sure as hell can’t seem to ever get her to chill at the precise moment when I need to sit down and decompress. I have control over nothing. She has taken that away from one of the great control freaks of our time.

And yet, in my stillest of moments, I must admit, it brings me absolute joy. Like being force-fed the medicine you need and didn’t ask for. My sweet Amelia has let me off the hook from trying to control it all. She has gifted me moments of release from my lifelong addiction to manipulate. It is freeing. It is light as a feather. Even though the dark circles under my eyes are vast, the focus of living moment to moment is awake in me. On the daily. And that applies even, if not especially, to our fall this morning. I couldn’t control tripping over that blanket any more than I could control the instinct I possess to hold her tight and break the fall. It’s life. It’s beautiful and it’s bumpy. And about the only thing I could control this morning was my attitude towards the event and towards moving forward.

The attitude. I have CMT. I am part of the Tribe of the Funky Feet. Despite all efforts not to, I fall sometimes. And that is not going to change. All I can do is try to walk with caution and care. Especially when I have that sweet smiling child in my arms. And when I do fall, I need to show her that I will get up and dust off and continue on my path. And thus, may the falls be few, and the smooth strides many.

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