Last night, as I ate dinner, prepared by an invisible human at a lovely establishment I didn’t have to clean up, a friend asked me a question. “What’s the hardest part of your parenting journey?” I paused. First and foremost, I needed a sip of my smoky martini, mixed by yet another invisible human. Second, the question was so thoughtful I had to assess my answer. Those types of questions don’t come around often in our day to day. Agree? I felt like I had to catch my breath and dig up “just right words.” Her intentional question offered me space to express a small part of my experience and be heard. It shocked me how much that small question meant. And then how hard it was to choose just one element to expound on.

It got me thinking about how we all live these intricate truths that need to be told, but in order for the telling to take place, the asking needs to come first. The asking takes time and thought and the ability to listen. Is that why our stories and experiences remain just ours? Because we’re not asked the right questions with time and space to really sort out our truth?

My truth is, our parenting journey is so incredibly hard on levels and in layers that shift, turn, evaporate, and compound on a daily basis. Raising kids through adoption and with complex special abilities isn’t most peoples’ story. Its not typical – we’re not typical. My thoughtful friend was acknowledging that with a few simple words strung together just right. I love how words own that power.

Without verbally vomiting the way I did under the heat lamps that bitter cold Michigan night, I’ll share the gist of my response. One of the hardest part of our parenting journey is how unnatural it feels to parent our little human people. What our kids need from us doesn’t come naturally for either of us. We don’t intrinsically know what they need or how to advocate for them in the world. We have to learn every step of the way and that way is constantly evolving. Between trauma, social nuances, birth parent dynamics, advocacy, therapies, attachment…their special abilities are so completely opposite from each other. And foreign to us. The labor, love and attention needed to meet them where they’re at is ongoing, deep and requires all of us. My role as mom is unnatural, which includes my journey through infertility. Loving our kids means more patience on my face and in my voice than I’m naturally able to muster. Which means therapy, quiet space and medication for me. And loyal friends who don’t compare their experience to mine and can keep me in check with my marriage and ability to be present for Tim. It’s a gorgeous spider web that glistens when it rains, but man oh man is it complex and intricate.

Most of us don’t ask the questions my friend asked under the heat lamp last night. As a human race, we’re not so good at asking intentional questions. And so our experiences and perspectives remain quiet and misunderstood.

My mission with Rylan’s book, “If I Squeeze Your Head I’m Sorry,” is to stress the importance and value of asking intentional questions with the motive of truly listening to the answers. No advice giving or suggestions. No judgement friends. Just listening with your actual ear drums, not your lips. Maybe then we can all grow in understanding what it’s like to be someone other than our own selves. If we can start there, imagine how much more we’ll find connection and community.

So I’ll ask you – what’s the hardest part of your current place in life? What can people do to support you with that place in mind? I’d love to know more.