I got up early on Sunday. Really just decided not to hit snooze on my phone. Getting up on that first alarm is usually reserved for holidays and anytime our LifeGroup is having a brunch. But I was wide awake at that alarm. Because I was already crying in bed.
It was Promotion Sunday. I thought. I wasn’t positive, but I knew it was either the first Sunday in August or the second. There had been signs up for months, but I had forgotten to write it down.
We were out the door early and on time to church, which rarely happens. Not for a lack of trying. More because someone poops in a diaper as we’re piling into the van. Or a 5-year-old decides his shoes feel weird. Every single pair. Or I realize I haven’t brushed my teeth (or hair) or applied deodorant (or pants) as we are reaching for keys.
But we were early, and it was Promotion Sunday. And I realized we couldn’t promote Bess, because I had forgotten to separate their diaper bags and coolers. So we put Bess and Adelaide in their regular class. But their teachers weren’t there. They had subs. And I was faced with my most hated mom task: describing Adelaide to a stranger in two minutes flat.
“This is Adelaide. She’s almost four. She has several disabilities. She can crawl and walk around objects on her knees. She can’t stand or walk. She sometimes falls. She will put everything in her mouth and choke. She has two bottles. One for now, and one for later. She can eat Cheerios, but you need to feed them to her one or two at a time. Don’t put little babies near her. She will unintentionally crush them. She is 36 pounds. She needs a diaper change every 90 minutes. She is nonverbal, but she will sign for milk. Like this. It looks like you’re milking a cow. She will scream and cry for everything else. She will fall asleep on the floor if she gets too overwhelmed. She doesn’t really play with toys or other kids. She has seizures, but hasn’t had one in several months. We will be in Room +++ if you need us.”
Deer in the headlights. I left my complex child with strangers who weren’t blinking. I had seen them in the older classes before, but Adelaide was new to them. Bess’ allergies were a cakewalk after that little soliloquy. I nervously walked away.
Then I saw all the other kids from the class Adelaide was supposed to be in. They had all moved upstairs. She was now the oldest and biggest child in her hallway. And I started crying.
I walked into LifeGroup late. Tears wiped away. I wasn’t caring at all for the lesson. I was thinking about my daughter. I knew she was safe. But was she scared? Did she realize these were different people?
The question for group discussion: how is God moving in your life?
I wasn’t going to answer, but I decided to speak up. I felt like He wasn’t. Or that I wasn’t. That my life has been in a limbo for a few years now. I feel like everyone else is moving. And I’m standing there at the same nursery class giving the same instructions and feeling the same wonky feelings. Like I’m just as out-of-place as Adelaide. Everyone moving up to the next floor. As we are getting overwhelmed and lying down on the floor signing sleepy.
I ended up rambling in LifeGroup. Made no sense whatsoever. Dave teased when we left that I should’ve come in on a wrecking ball with my head shaved. I was chuckling and his eyes were sparkling. Dave doesn’t do pop culture, so I was actually laughing at his ability to even tell a Miley joke. But he was right. I was a wreck.
I served second hour. Playing with my girls and realizing Bess was going off to the next class. Graduating past her sister. They had been together almost two years, and Bess was leaving Adelaide behind. Headed across the hall to a place with a teeter totter and a play kitchen and chairs. And Adelaide was staying behind with crawlers.
I picked up Graham. He was furious with me. I had forgotten to tell him he was promoting. A friend dropped him off at his new room. With new teachers. He had moved across the hallway and his parents hadn’t even warned him about it. He said he would pretend to smile for my picture.
That afternoon, I left Dave and the kids at my mom-in-law’s house while I went to a bridal shower. I’ve known Meaghan 14 years. I was her Sunday School teacher for a season. Her school teacher for a season. And I was taking her dish towels to set up a new home with a soon-to-be-husband. She was moving, too. And I was ecstatic that I had been invited to her special celebration.
I hit construction. Twice. Took three detours. I realized I wasn’t going to be there on time. But unless I sprouted wings and flew above the cans and cones and barricades, I was going to be walking into that party late. I was moving farther and farther away from that party with each detour. And a favorite Switchfoot song of mine came on.
No, I’m not alright
I know that I’m not right
Feel like I travel but I never arrive
I wanna thrive not just survive
I come alive when I hear you singing
But lately I haven’t been hearing a thing and
I get the feeling that I’m in between
A machine and a man who only looks like me
I try and hide it and not let it show
But deep down inside me I just don’t know
Am I a man when I feel like a hoax?
The stranger in the mirror is wearing my clothes
No, I’m not alright
I know that I’m not right
A steering wheel don’t mean you can drive
A warm body don’t mean I’m alive
And that song meant more to me than the Bible Study and the sharing time and the awkward feeling of being transparent when you don’t even know what to say. That song summed up how I felt about Adelaide’s non-Promotion Sunday that morning. And my non-Promotion Life.
I was late to the party. No one noticed. Only a few people even knew me. I ate food and cake and wrote down who gave what for the thank you notes. And I blended in. And I didn’t explain Adelaide to anyone, because not one person even asked if I had children. I was just one of 35 women at a bridal shower on a hot August Sunday. And it actually felt good to be so unnoticed. No tears. No caveats. No wheelchair. Just a mom eating grapes.
And I returned a couple hours later to my tribe. Back to what is familiar to me, but still not always understandable. I was greeted with tiny kisses and a gift of rocks. And I still wasn’t alright. I still felt like I was never arriving anywhere. Adelaide wasn’t moving up. Our positions unchanged.
It’s been more than a month since that Promotion Sunday. The bride-to-be moved into her new title of Mrs. Clay and crossed a parking lot with lavender raining down into her hair.
Bess crossed that hall into the class her brother attended more than 4 1/2 years ago. The teachers are the same and just as wonderful as ever. And Adelaide stayed in her class, and was loved on by her fantastic teachers.
I still often feel like I’m traveling but never arriving. But we have more successes than failures. And even though some days feel like slow motion, I know the truth is that Adelaide is moving forward. Ever so slowly, but she’s making progress. And I’m becoming better at noticing it all. Learning not to be bogged down with everything. We’re far from leaving surviving for thriving. But it’s within reach. And that’s enough for right now.