Plan B

Sometimes I think that the last sixteen years of my life have all been one big Plan B. One long divergent path. Sixteen years ago I graduated from college and, through no fault of my own, started having children long before Plan A had stipulated. Having two children with special needs was not in Plan A. Autism (although it starts with A!) was not in Plan A. Divorce – no. Single parenting? No way in hell was that part of Plan A.

And so I learned that I didn’t just need to have a Plan B, I was constantly living it. We all do to some extent – life takes different twists and turns, and we all must adapt to change, some of it completely unexpected. Plan B has to happen whether you planned for it or not, whether it was an actual plan or a split-second decision. You go into the grocery store, race around throwing a few things into your cart, hoping that your distressed autistic child can hold it together for just a few more minutes, and then someone turns on an electric coffee grinder and it all goes out the window. Your child shrieks and tries to bolt, and it’s time for Plan B. You leave the blasted cart in the blasted store and carry your hysterical child out to the blasted car, dragging your other reluctant child by the arm because you can’t leave him in the store because he’s a toddler for God’s sake and you’re a blasted single parent. Everybody’s either shrieking or crying or kicking you or pulling on you or staring or shaking their heads at you. And you still didn’t get the few groceries you needed. Plan B sucks. Sometimes, even, it’s the loss of a job, a home, or a loved one – and then Plan B takes on a whole different persona, a whole different significance. It’s no longer just a new plan. It’s a safety net. Those, of course, are the most life-altering Plan Bs of all.

But I’ve also learned that Plan B, whether big or small, doesn’t always have to suck. Sometimes Plan B can even offer some comfort in disguise. And even though it’s not what you wanted or hoped for, you can make it work. It’s not Plan A, but in most cases, you can live with it, sometimes because you have no other choice. Slowly you get used to it. And you might even warm up to some aspects of it. 

My latest Plan B, in a long string of Plan Bs (sixteen years’ worth), involved what to do after I’d moved my two teenage boys seven hundred miles away to live with their father in Los Angeles while I stayed in Oregon to sell the house. First, Nigel’s IEP wasn’t amended so that he could go to a special school for students with autism. So we came up with the Plan B of their father moving to a better school district in the L.A. area, one that had a good special education department. Meanwhile, I felt so confident with the timing of this major change in our lives that I was certain my house would sell before August. Surely one of those two things would work out. But neither one did.

So technically, we’ve moved onto Plan C at this point, or perhaps Plan Q by now. The boys are coming back to Oregon and will attend the same schools that they did last year. I have taken my house off the market. I’ll have to work extra hard to get Nigel’s team to meet his academic needs, which is the whole reason why I wanted him to go to the special school in the first place. But here’s the wait-a-minute moment, the half-the-battle factor – Nigel loves his school here in Oregon. He has friends here, he’s comfortable here, he’s safe, and he’s happy. Why would I want to mess with that?! Well, there are two reasons why – one, his father’s not here. Two, the school hasn’t yet figured out how to teach him to work independently. And those are pretty significant reasons.

In spite of that, every day I’m feeling better about this particular Plan B. The boys will be back at familiar schools in which they are comfortable. And I don’t have to find a new job (even the thought of that was a huge stress for me – those of you going through it, you have my deepest empathy). Those are pretty significant reasons too. And so, although Plan B isn’t what I’d hoped for (is it ever?), I can live with it. It might turn out just fine after all.

These photos are of our much-loved and oft-climbed tree, which split in half a few years ago during a storm. The stronger half is still standing in our front yard, and the firewood from the weaker half lasted a long time. 

25 thoughts on “Plan B

  1. AmyLK

    I am sorry that Plan A and B haven’t worked out. But you have the comfort of knowing that Nigel has wonderful friends here and you know the team. There are so many pluses to staying! 🙂

  2. Big Daddy

    As someone who is perpetually living out his Plan Q, I can relate. As Mike Tyson so eloquently put it “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Not to stuff too many cliches in one comment but, you just have to play the hand you’re dealt.

  3. Carrie

    Wow, Tanya, gorgeous post and the tree pictures/story/symbolism are powerful! Selfishly I’m really glad you’re staying in Oregon. I am well familiar with the path that leads you right back to where you started, but going down and around (and around) the path is never fruitless.

  4. fighting for my children

    So that is the name I have been looking for Plan Q lol. Nope, it certaintly wasnt my plan to b a single mom either but here I am.
    I hope your plan Q works out for the best for you and your family. Sometimes we make plans but god has other ideas lol.

  5. Lex Savko

    A John Lennon quote comes to mind: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. I am hopeful that things will get better with Nigel’s educators and that you will find additional reasons to feel better about Plan B.

  6. jess

    i’m so sorry that it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, but it may well be that it worked out the way it should have.

    love to you and yours.

  7. Cathy

    I am always so hopeful after reading your posts! You are a wonderful writer. Thanks for reminding me that even though things don’t go the way I have planned, everything usually works out. Wishing you a GREAT school year!

  8. Kim

    “And so, although Plan B isn’t what I’d hoped for (is it ever?), I can live with it. It might turn out just fine after all.”

    The photos are a perfect compliment to your post. I’m sorry you’ve had to make so many plans in recent months, but I’m so glad that staying put has it’s positives.

  9. lilith

    Lately I’ve been reading a lot about Plan B, even saw it on a t-shirt. I’m thinking the universe is trying to tell me something. Must listen better.

    I hope all goes well with your boys, I’m sure it will.

  10. M

    from what i can tell, your plan A has always been: handle difficult situations with dignity and grace. and you’ve stuck with that plan consistently, from all of the posts i’ve read. you: amazing.

  11. Carrie N

    Ah, man, it’s hard to let go of the original plans sometimes isn’t it?
    I’d bet the farm that there are good things in store for you right where you are. I’ll be here to read about them.

  12. Nicki

    Sorry to hear your plans didn’t work out the way you hoped! 🙁 How do the boys feel about coming back? Were they disappointed to leave their dad, or relieved to go home? Maybe you just need to wait a while… if none of your worked out right, despite all your efforts, maybe its because fate has something better waiting for you in the near future!

  13. Paulene


    I join you in the plan B’s, C’s and Q’s. We’ve had 2 attempts at big moves and even though it’s not our ideal situation, what we had planned we just simply keep coming back to plan B.

    Plan B does has it’s +/- factors. The main issue is this area offers a good quality of life, the people are good and the air is very good.

  14. Jazzygal

    So sorry your plans didn’t work out Tanya. What an upheaval for you all. The fact Nigel is really happy in his old school and amongst the friends he worked so hard to gain really is a big half of half the battle. Maybe the school can work harder on the independence issue which leaves just the father issue to work on ??
    Sometimes (only sometimes) things happen the way they do for a (good) reason. I do hope this is one of them 🙂

    xx Jazzy

  15. Tanya Savko Post author

    Thank you all so much for your encouragement!

    Nicki – the boys are handling it well, I’m very glad to say. They’re coming home this weekend, and I’ll be writing more about them soon!

  16. Em

    I love this post. You expressed something that is hard to put into words, and yet, you did it. It really isn’t about HAVING a Plan B…it really is that we are always LIVING our Plan B. We never really get to go back and live the life that was our Plan A. And you are right, that isn’t all bad. But it is always different than we ever imagined.

    Very nicely said.

  17. Michelle O'Neil

    Tanya. I love how positive you are about it, but if I were near you I’d take you out for a good cry.

    Over a glass of wine.


    Then I’d tell you things are going to work out better than you ever imagined.

  18. Anonymom

    Tanya, Tanya, Tanya:

    All this and your head is still attached to your body. And Nigel is happy. And the boy who learned to speak and have empathy can continue to learn; even to work independently.

  19. Babs M

    I’m sorry things didn’t go like you planned, but as you (and Robert Frost) say, sometimes the path less traveled by does make all the difference. Best wishes for a great school year, and warm thoughts. Maybe this year you have the number A instead of the letter one… 🙂

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