Not Quite Empty Nest: The Force of Gravity as a Parenting Tool
June 6, 2016
This past weekend I had the enormous privilege of watching a glass blower at a renaissance festival. Even in the sweltering heat, which normally sends me to the snow cone stand, I couldn’t drag myself away from his presentation in front of a very, very hot oven. Entranced, I listened intently to every step of his process and I found myself floored by one of his tools. Gravity.
I watched as the glassblower took molten glass out of one oven, rolled it, then collected colored bits to swirl in the glass. He put it into another oven to let it stretch, then, after several of these processes, he simply tilted his stainless steel pole down to let gravity do the work. Gravity helped create the most beautiful mug I have ever seen.
Since I’ve been a special needs mom for almost 20 years, my body is screaming at me to reduce the stress that comes from such a long struggle. In only the last two years, I have had to have spinal surgery to replace discs that just vanished. I’ve had pneumonia twice, torn a ligament in my leg, dealt with painful neuropathy from the disc pain, and still had a nasty cornucopia of other ailments too annoying to list here.
I share this because any of these illnesses could impact my ability to take care of my sweet Caleb, who depends on me for everything from wiping his bottom, to brushing his teeth, to every other sort of physical help you can imagine. I need to be well and strong to continue to care for him.
After exhausting most of Western medicine’s advice and treatment, I decided to explore other methods of healing. My first stop is always to my regular physician but I augment his treatments with essential oils, yoga (well, regular stretching because I am just not that bendy) and a new favorite, meditation. In my meditation, I connect directly to God—it’s deep prayer in a way I’ve never experienced before. One of my guided meditations tells me to sink into the pull of gravity.
I’ve been fighting gravity forever. As a child, I was always jumping on something, trying to get air between me and the floor. As a high schooler, I ran track, always trying to get my knees to fly one inch higher to widen my stride. After I hit 30 I began to use every possible wrinkle cream, looking to fight gravity’s effect on my face. I lift weights. I exercise. I do everything I can to combat gravity.
What if gravity can be a tool? What if we stop fighting it so much and learn to lean into it like a comforting, constant presence?
As special needs parents, we often find ourselves fighting against accepting a new diagnosis. We fight against that one relative who insists, “I was just like him. He’ll grow out of it.” We fight against school districts that suddenly decide special ed classes should be populated by geographical constructs rather than the need of the students to be grouped by their levels of ability. We fight against strangers who whisper or point or laugh when our child behaves in a way they find entertaining.
We fight and fight and fight.
I used to take boxing fitness classes. One thing my teacher drilled into us was that a missed punch takes much more energy than a punch that makes contact. She trained us to never miss a punch. When we’re fighting in our everyday lives, we need to consider whether that punch will land. Will our one punch make a difference or do we need to rally others to join us before we even pull back our arm?
If we’re going to fight, let’s make it count, but if our fight won’t make any difference at all, perhaps we should just keep our hands down. None of us can afford to be exhausted by throwing missed punches.
In an effort to take some of the fight out of my existence, I find myself setting my feet together on the floor and submitting to the comfort of gravity. The other day I found a flower on the sidewalk and I lifted it, then gently let go to see it fall, just like I knew it would.
We are inundated with the need to fight so many times on any given day. The call to fight often comes just when we are having a good moment, when we take a breath and feel normal for just half a second. Then our kid falls or begins to self-injure or becomes upset that a new car is parked on the street. Immediately we are launched into Mama Bear mode and all peace is shattered.
If a man can harness the power of gravity to create delicate, swirly, colorful blown glass, then maybe we can use gravity to find beauty too. In the midst of your child’s guttural screams, put your feet down. Gravity is there. When your child just won’t stop shaking his foot and tapping his hand at a speed faster than a hummingbird, look around you at the world and all the things gravity is holding in place.
At the end of a long day that has left you almost unable to crawl into bed, crawl in and revel in the gravity that pulls you to the bed. Stop fighting. Relax into it, and you will sleep more soundly.
The notion of gravity isn’t new (nods to Mr. Newton) but perhaps we can change our perspective of it and allow gravity to be a tool that can help us, instead of something that is always pulling us down.
We already have enough of those.
In moments where everything feels out of control, we can take a deep breath and remind ourselves that gravity has us firmly rooted to the ground. I know I haven’t thought this much about gravity since George Clooney and Sandra Bullock forced me to, but now that I am, I find it can be a great comfort in the midst of chaos, when nothing else around me is giving me anything close to comfort.
By changing our perspective of gravity being one more thing to fight, we can choose to see it as something that can create peace and even beauty. We can let go and know that gravity can be a help instead of something to always battle.
As Forrest Gump said, “That’s good. One less thing.”
Do you think that focusing on gravity will help you find some peace when you find yourself engulfed in chaos?
Kate Welch, author of the blog “Neverland Without a GPS” shares her journey as a proud, single mother of two great children—her 20-year-old daughter who is a microbiology major in her third year of college and her 19-year-old son who has 22Q Deletion Syndrome.
Through her series here, she hopes to reach out to everyone who belongs within the rare community and ben an asset who can spread knowledge and understanding on the topic of caregiving to an adult child.
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