Life is the earth we tread upon.
The views along the trails are the understandings we acquire along the way.
The ascent is the effort parenthood requires you to exert.
Before you start, you know the hike will be worth it in the end.
The view will be incredible. Eye-opening. But you know it will be work getting there.
Very quickly everyone discovers there's no avoiding the work getting there.
Parenting a child with special needs or a terminal illness is different, though.
It's just different than parenting a healthy child.
* * *
Parenting a healthy child is like walking up a lone foothill.
It's work getting to the top and you're stronger for it.
You see things from the top of the hill that you wouldn't have from below, and you're wiser for it.
Parenting a healthy child makes you a better person.
When you first look at it you think there's no way you can do it.
Everyone else is turning back and walking down the foothill back into the village because they can.
But for the most wonderful and daunting reasons, you know you have to journey on.
You have to walk up the next, slightly higher range of foothills that are almost like mountains.
At this early stage, when you look back, the lone foothill appears so much smaller.
You marvel at how much you've grown.
But you look ahead and see how much farther you have to go.
The snowy peaked mountains.
And you march on.
Because you have to.
Because it's the right thing to do.
Because there's every reason in the world to.
Bluff after bluff, you keep looking back at that first foothill.
You imagine everyone home relaxing.
Talking about what they saw from the top of the lone foothill. About how hard it was.
The reward of parenthood.
And you smile for a million reasons.
Some good, some bad.
* * *
And before you turn your back on that distant scene and continue on with the ascent, maybe never to return, you see a whole world up and above that lone foothill that nobody you knew before has.
It's full of sadness, happiness, wisdom, and beauty.
You see it.
You feel it.
It's real. So much more real than what you knew before.
Looking out at the vast expanse of understanding and emotion, you think how impossible it would be to explain this view to people who haven't seen it for themselves.
How a few wonderful souls would try really hard to understand.
How most would not. Could not.
How many would not even want to listen.
But there you stand.
Mostly alone. With a few other brave hikers here and there.
Far beyond and above the heights of that lone, little foothill.
Looking out at things you never knew were there.
Things your former self likely didn't want to know were there ... just like the others.
Tired. Exhausted. Stronger. Wiser.
With so much to offer.
And so much to share.