When I was a little girl, I loved to play the game, "Chutes and Ladders." Climbing the ladders with my cardboard game piece was always exhilarating. If I avoided a square with a dreaded slide, I celebrated by clapping loudly and bouncing in my seat!
Years and years later, I still find myself playing, "Chutes and Ladders." Simply because my children adore it. Camren loves to count the squares on the board and identify the numbers on the spinner, and Lilly...well...she loves to win!
Truthfully, I don't love the game as much as I used to. (And how Scrooge-alicious is that?!) Why? Because I can't seem to get my game piece to go anywhere. Like a stick stuck in the mud, I rarely move! The spinner arrow often lands on the low numbers when it is my turn, and I almost always, always land on a slide!
I've been thinking a lot about that childhood game lately, as it seems to relate to current events in my life. Last October, my pediatrician told me she was concerned about Cam's language development. This observation resulted in a whole gauntlet of tests and evaluations, as well as meetings with a brilliant speech therapist. At the end of it all, we were told he did not qualify for help through our school district. With a pat on the back, we were sent out the door with an armful of reading material, and were told to work with him at home.
Six months later, at a follow up appointment (only days ago), I was met with some unsettling news that sent a jolt straight to my mama's heart. Cam's language skills have not improved much, resulting in his doctor's admonition to "seek more testing." She used all the buzz words I had heard before: Autism Spectrum Disorder. Idiosyncratic speech. Jargon. Speech therapy.
And just like that, this mama landed on a slide. I whooshed all the way back down to the bottom. To that formidable "square one."
I have no answers. I have no solutions. I have been handed a proverbial package of questions and concerns, and I'm looking at it in my hands, and I'm wondering, "What am I supposed to do with this?" I am discouraged. I am frustrated.
So, I did one of the only things I could do (besides eat a cookie)...I brought it up to my friend, Cobi. I felt I needed to talk to her.
Her beautiful, blue-eyed son is autistic. She is a warrior mother--a true example of strength and perseverance. She works hard and loves fiercely, and has armed herself with information to help her son. Over the phone, I told her all about my situation. My setbacks and my woes. I used my "Chutes and Ladders" analogy to convey how I was feeling. I told her I had been met with a slide.
She said something to me that took my breath away:
"There will be slides on this journey. You have to accept that there will be slides. They won't necessarily send you back to square one, but with each one you will learn something. You'll start to get answers. There will be ladders too. The ladders are what you focus on."
Life is very much like a game of "Chutes and Ladders." It is filled to the brim with the highest highs and the lowest lows. It's natural and inevitable--that we'll face ups and downs. It is universal. We all have encountered those exhilarating ladders, and have joyously climbed skyward. We've also wept when the slides have crossed our paths, sending us down, and down, and down.
How we choose to handle the ups and downs is entirely individual. Me? I choose to take my friend's advice:
Accept the slides.
Celebrate the ladders.