September 24, 2011
The small print
"Am I broken?"
We discussed it for a while amongst the Chef Boyardee and the Cap'n Crunch, and we concluded that yes, she was broken. We are a broken family, in some ways that are obvious and others less so. She is broken, and I am broken, and Schuyler is broken. We are like a good deal made ordinary by all the faults exposed in the small print. We go through the world operating with stopgap repairs, and we fuck up a lot, but we never stop. And for that, I am proud of us, fiercely so.
Parents break a little when they raise kids who are different or who present big challenges. Some of that breaking is bad, leaving us in an even less ideal position to take on those challenges. But I think some of it is for the best, too. We break some of the neurotypical narratives, we break some of the ridiculous expectations that we might otherwise mistake for Very Important Things, and we shatter the rules that don't make sense for us. We learn to break some of the parts that give a damn about what you think of us. Sometimes it is in the breaking that the solutions are hiding.
Julie and I keep moving forward, through the stumbles and the moments of doubt and all of it, and we do so with our own demons, ones that we brought to the table long before Schuyler was ever born. And sometimes the best thing we can do is make sure that we don't both show up for parenting duty with that haunted look at the same time. Sometimes that really is the essence of good parenting. Knowing when to tag out. Knowing when we simply can't tag out, so we simply don't.
In those moments of doubt, it is almost always Schuyler who shows us the way out. She holds a positive spark, and she sees when we need that spark. She always seems to see it. And if there is one thing we all share, the limping members of this broken tribe, it is an absolutely unbroken love, and an unwavering commitment to protect each other, and grow each other. We don't get it right all the time; sometimes we (mostly I) get it astonishingly wrong. But we never stop, and we never lose sight of it.
If, in the past weeks or months or years, you have determined that I am a mostly imperfect father or advocate or whatever, I can only confess that it's true. If you look at my family and see the cracks, the spackled-over holes and the duct tape holding some parts of it together, I can only apologize for the shabbiness of our presentation.
But if you could just see that love, and how sometimes it brings joy and sometimes it hurts, but it always burns, painfully and breathtakingly, and never flickers, then I would hope that you could recognize that our very broken machine runs because its engine is true, and the rest is just stuff.