I’m working a couple of days a week now on the Chicago Parent side of our company. In case you’re not familiar with it, Chicago Parent is a terrific monthly magazine that Wednesday Journal Inc. has been publishing for the last 20 years or so. I wrote a column and regular features for that publication for a good 10 years?#34;until my son got “too old” and I got too busy on the WJ side.
Now, with layoffs and the economic downturn, there were a few holes to fill and CP needed a copy editor, and that’s one of the things I do around here, so I’m plugging one of the holes.
It’s been interesting. My son turns 25 next month, which means I’ve been out of the parenting loop for a while, so this has been an interesting reacquaintance. In many ways, it’s a nostalgia trip. The memories come flooding in as I edit the calendar entries and am reminded of all the things Dylan and I used to do together. I spent three years as a stay-at-home housespouse in the late 1980s in Michigan, and we got around. When I saw an entry for a maple syrup event at a local nature center, I was lost for several minutes in vivid memories of the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Mich., which we spent many hours exploring.
I’ve been impressed by the sheer volume of activities and events available to parents. And not just parents. We put out a resource guide called “Going Places” that most adults, with or without kids, would benefit from perusing. The snow sculpting competition, Feb. 4-8, in Lake Geneva, Wis., looks interesting. There’s a whole section on intriguing, off-the-beaten-path tours available in the Chicago area that sound ideal for weekend diversions or day trips.
We also put out a supplement titled “Chicago Special Parent,” specifically targeting families who have kids with special needs. I was stunned, not only by the number and variety of resource listings but the range of treatable conditions that have been identified: Autism Spectrum disorders, Asperger’s syndrome, Down syndrome, ADD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), ODD, OCD, visual impairments, auditory impairments, dyslexia and other learning disabilities, sensory integrative dysfunction, and the frightening sounding pervasive developmental disorder (PDD).
All of us, of course, have imperfect body chemistry, which means we fall into some category. Neuroscience has made great strides in the past 10 years or so understanding our mysterious brains. One result is the number of adults now take anti-depressants. This specific targeting of conditions will only increase in the future, and everyone will feel more and more pressure to medicate in order to correct our physical and mental imperfections. This is not necessarily progress, but in some cases it is.
I’m amazed at the range of issues some parents have to deal with. I wonder how fast the percentage of kids with special needs is rising. Judging by the range of resources available, the increase must be exponential. Some of that may be attributable to better diagnosis and reporting, but I wonder what role environmental factors play.
When I think of the heavy lifting required just to parent one relatively normal child to adulthood, I shake my head and wonder how his mother and I did it. When I think of the much heavier lifting many parents have to do for kids with special needs, I stand in awe and feel humbled. All parents face challenges, but some parents really have it tough.