I miss Dick Clark. I miss watching old re-runs of “American Bandstand” and ringing in each year with his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. He was like a cordial but distant relation stopping by to wish me good cheer. He was always happy, or at least it seemed that way as the decades passed and that smile grew wider and brighter and tighter.
Of course, that’s what plastic surgery and a steady regimen of Botox can do for you: perpetual happiness, or at least some version of it. There’s just something about Botox that gives me the creeps. It’s like those Mardi Gras masks – frozen smiles that cannot shift from mood to mood. I’ve never liked clowns for that reason. I don’t trust someone whose face doesn’t change with intention.
And yet, I’m getting Botox for my son.
It turns out, Botox does more than fight off the wrinkles. If beauty is skin deep, we’re reaching past that to get to the root of our son’s struggles. His leg muscles are stiff and tight as rubber bands stretched to the breaking point. He’s a rusty tin man trying to move like a gazelle every time he walks.
His dystonia – which sounds like a trendy Paleo eatery – prevents his mind from telling his body what to do. Though the cerebral palsy that caused these developments has not limited his understanding of the world, it has limited his exploration of and interaction with it.
So, we stretch. Each morning when I put on his clothes, we count to 10 again and again, and I hold on to those ankles as they shake with the effort to loosen. I lean in to his hamstrings with a gentle but unrelenting pressure that will help him sit unassisted and stand in his walker and bend over in his wheelchair.
But it’s not getting any easier. As he gets older, he’s fighting a rapidly growing body, fighting the tide of what should be the natural process of moving from baby to kid. His growing pains are more painful than most. So, with our pediatrician and physical therapist’s recommendation, we’re getting Botox. And I’m researching the heck out of it.
We said no to Botox once before. When another specialist wanted to inject it into the glands in his throat to reduce his drooling, we felt it was unnecessary. Even with his trach and enlarged tongue and feeding difficulties, we still did not feel comfortable choosing an elective process that had risks. Did I really want something injected into my son that might lead to botulism? I could deal with the drool.
But now, now it has become necessary, and we say yes if it can help him walk and find his rhythm in the flowing traffic of the world.
Because Botox essentially induces paralysis, it can target those wire-tight muscles that none of my stretching can reach. It can go in there and tell those guys to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride so his other muscles get a chance to shine. The hope, of course, is that when the Botox wears off, the newly used muscles will help to keep the tighter, more curmudgeonly ones in check. His body will find the yin and yang of it.
Botox is a commitment. It’s not a one-and-done thing. He will need continuing treatment every three to six months. But isn’t that what life and parenting really is – a continuing series of adjustments in the hopes of improvement and strength?
Botox doesn’t bring happiness, but for us, it could bring freedom. It could mean the ringing in of a new season in life. I think Dick Clark would be happy for us.
(This article originally appeared in Parent.co. and is reprinted with permission from the author)
About the author: Jamie Sumner is a writer for Parenting Special Needs Magazine and Scary Mommy and the mother of a son with cerebral palsy and twins. Her writing has also appeared in Mom.me, Her View From Home, Parent.co, Mamalode, Tribe, and Literary Mama. She writes with humor about infertility and special needs parenting on her website, mom-gene.com. You can also follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/momgene.org/ and Instagram: @themomgene