During 2022 my family recovered from COVID twice, but my body was weak. On top of this, we seemed to get every virus that came through school. I wondered if this was my new normal.
Two wise women turned it around for me. The first was Karen Walrond who talked about the importance of sabbaticals. The second was Martha Beck whose book “The Way of Integrity” invited me to start living according to my dreams.
So, I asked my kids what they wanted to explore. One wanted to visit a cocoa bean farm in Far North Queensland. Everyone wanted to see colourful birds, food forests and national parks.
We put a roof pod on our Prius, strapped on a tent, filled the car with camping stuff and set off around Australia. We saw the Flinders Ranges and the Twelve Apostles, bats flying over Carnarvon Gorge and tropical fish off the shore of Fitzroy Island. We saw cocoa beans and how they were manufactured into chocolate. We saw Macaws and Black Cockatoos, King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas. Everyone had to help me pitch the tent every time we moved, because it didn’t go up without a team effort. They started cooking on BBQs and doing small shopping trips in country supermarkets without help. The fresh air and pitch-black nights helped with sleep. I started to feel less exhausted. We practiced our social skills with holidaying kids around campfires, and grey nomads who were surprised to see a mother traveling through the countryside with kids with disability in nothing but a Prius.
The trip itself was a significant time of growth for us, but perhaps what was more remarkable was how I could never have imagined this trip to be possible eight years earlier. If you had met my son during preschool with his chaotic speech and preference for staying home all day in a pair of undies, if you had seen me cleaning the toilet walls… Camping around Australia was the last thing I was expecting to be able to do.
And yet, I never stopped working to find new advice, new insights and treatments. So, my sons kept developing and eventually I realised it didn’t matter they were taking an unconventional path, because they were always growing. Helping them meet their needs kept nudging me in unexpected, interesting directions. In an odd way, having kids with disability gave me the freedom to live unconventionally. We’ve been through some really hard things as a family, but we have a rich life full of truth, creativity, curiosity, adventure and kindness. We belong with each other. And it’s enough.