We are in a season of contentment right now, here in our cozy little house of four. And I have to admit, there was a very long time when I wondered if we’d ever get here.
Chris and I have been married nine years (tomorrow, in fact!), and it seems those nine years have been rather, well, chaotic. In striking contrast to our courtship, which was peaceful and easy, our marriage has been…hectic. We got married on a hot June morning, and nine-and-a-half months later, our first bundle of terror arrived. Yes, terror. Joy, sure…bundle of joy. But also a bundle of terror.
Theo was not a peaceful baby. Adorable, yes. Peaceful, no. Colicky, fussy, discontent…and we were newlyweds, learning to be married but also learning to be parents. It was, without a doubt, the hardest time in our marriage. I never doubted that we’d stick together through it, but it was hard. We were so tired, so frustrated, so heartsick over not knowing how to soothe our baby. I mean, that was our job, and we were failing miserably. There was just no consoling the little guy.
Eventually the crying and screaming stopped, but I can’t say things got much easier. Theo was a rather fiery, challenging toddler. What am I saying—rather? He was a totally fiery, challenging toddler. Fascinating, too—he was bright and inquisitive and funny, but oh so fiery!
Chris and I kind of felt like we were tiptoeing around a ticking time bomb. We never knew what would set him off, and it was really hard to calm him once he started. I get it now, in retrospect. He was an autistic kiddo with sensory issues struggling to find his place in a non-autistic, rather overwhelming world. It’s a lot to handle, and I get it. In hindsight, of course, because hindsight is always 20/20.
We found out Theo had autism when he was about four—right after Sam’s surprise Down syndrome diagnosis. That was kind of a lot to handle in a two-month period. I mean, they both just were what they were—there was no changing any of it, and we didn’t necessarily want to change any of it. But it was a lot to handle in a short time. Life was still kind of chaos.
And four was a tough age with Theo. Very tough. He adored his baby brother but fought us constantly. In good old hindsight, I think it was the usual answer of Theo experiencing what every kid experiences, but just really amplified. Every kid goes through that challenge/independence stage around that age, but with Theo it was rather amplified. Tantrums were more frequent, were more intense, and lasted longer. And of course, we had a newborn in the mix, too.
Five brought some maturity for Theo. He had his struggles in school, but he managed. Some days were better than others…for all of us. Same with six.
But then came seven, with some more maturity and some more peace. I wouldn’t say total peace—homework was still an epic battle some nights, for sure. Theo still struggled with boundaries and fought us on a lot. He tried on new personas he picked up from friends or from TV, some of which were maddening and some of which were charming. There was a lovely cussing phase to deal with. But in general, he was maturing.
And now he’s eight, and I’ve been realizing that finally, finally, we have reached a season of contentment. Theo loved second grade—loved his teachers, loved his classmates, loved all of it except the homework. (Can’t blame him on that one!) He came home from school generally relaxed and cheerful and remained that way much of the time. Don’t think it escaped my notice—after so many years of hair-trigger tantrums, I reveled in it!
And it only got better as the year progressed. Instead of getting fried and frustrated as school progressed, he continued to enjoy it and even expressed sadness that the year was ending. And things continued to improve at home. He’s eight—he’s a little boy. That means there’s always going to be some challenging bits. But by and large, he has been a content, cheerful eight-year-old. He walks around with an air of contentment rather than an air of stress. It does my heart so much good to see it, as I worried a lot about his tense nature when he was younger.
And that contentment has spilled over to the rest of us, too. It’s easier to be calm parents when you’re not constantly waiting for the next explosion. It’s easier to enjoy the little moments with your kids when they’re not overshadowed by big tantrums. And so I’m clinging on to this season of contentment as tightly as I can. Because all too soon puberty will hit, and it’ll be a whole new ballgame. But for now, we have eight years old, which is calm and content and cheerful and mostly delightful.
I’ll take it. And I’ll appreciate every moment of it.