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Roses and Thorns

February 3, 2012


“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” – Tom Wilson, from the “Ziggy” comic strip .

Despite what the groundhog has to say, spring seems to have come early here. The crocuses and tulips are already pushing up through the mulch and snow.

Something else is happening with my roses. Have you ever observed roses in early spring? A really amazing thing happens to them.

Those thorns – the ones that cut your hands in the summer and fall, while you were cutting the flowers or pruning the bush- turn into new buds in the spring. It seems such an obvious commentary on life. Those things that prick us just as we are trying to grasp the blossom, are the very things that produce even more of those beautiful flowers.

So too, it goes with us. Those pricks and pinches that life gives us, usually just as we are trying to grab onto some precious moment with our children, are the very things that make us even stronger – just as the rose thorns eventually grow into new branches on the bush. Each prick, each challenging moment, will eventually produce a fresh, new branch on the plant of our journey.

My oldest son Troy’s autism diagnosis, while difficult, certainly strengthened me and educated me in the art of raising a special needs child. This came just in time for the birth of my youngest daughter, Mary, with her hearing impairment. Her early intervention therapists were then the first to start noticing the symptoms of autism in my second- born, Joyce. Every prick, every thorn, strengthening me and preparing me in some way for the next stage of our journey.

Even the medical dramas we have gone through have served to strengthen us. It reminds us that life is precious. That each day, each moment is a gift. Those thorns give us the strength of a sharp reminder that we need to allow our children the space and the time to enjoy themselves and each other in the moment that they are given, just as they are.

Troy and Joyce love to have “sleepovers” where Joyce will camp out in Troy’s room and watch a movie with him until they both fall asleep. I used to only allow this on weekends. Then the sharp stab of another round of doctors’ appointments with Mary reminded me that life is too short to deny our children the simple pleasure of enjoying each other. They get their little sleepovers a few times a week now. Why not? It is so simple and it makes them so happy.

Those autistic meltdowns that we endure in public, give us a new sensitivity to other children at the store going through sensory overload. If we’re lucky, it will even change the perceptions of some of our friends and family. The longing for one word from our nonverbal child, teaches us to appreciate all of the other ways our children communicate with us. Learning to appreciate the excited hand-flapping of our sensory seekers, helps us to accept and appreciate our children, just as they are, with all their little eccentricities.

The perspective this life has given me has made me a better and stronger mother. All of the bumps along our road, all of the thorns on our branches, help us to grow. Those thorns turn to buds, branches, leaves and, if we are lucky, new blossoms, in the spring.


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