June 11, 2014
I came home to this-- Garret writing all on his own. No prompts. All him.
Where was I when all of this was happening? I was having a conference with a parent whose child is hyperactive and has language delays, whose nutrition includes consuming three 250 ml chocolate drinks a day and whose spare time is spent on playing games on the tablet four hours a day. I was in an an hour-long conference where I had to answer the question, "Why do chocolate drinks cause kids to be hyperactive?"(I know, right?) Where I had to explain to the parent why spending hours and hours on the tablet is not good at all. I was in a conference that left me drained because I wondered how many more parents out there are feeding their neuro-typical, normal, able-bodied and able-minded children sugar and junk and letting them spend hours on the tablet instead of engaging them in meaningful conversations or exercising with them or letting them pursue potentials in the arts, music or sports just waiting to be tapped because the parents are too tired from work at the end of the day?
No judgment here. After all, parents are not super heroes. Although they try to be. Me included.
I am by no means, an expert on parenting. But I am a parent. I'm a mother of two boys with autism; with impaired language, social skills and sensory dysfunctions. I know all too well the effect of sugar and junk food and all sorts of crap on my two boys. I know all too well the enormously negative effect of letting my boys play the iPad for hours on end. Imagine toilet-training turned upside down. And that's just my kid. The effect is immediate. Unlike maybe normal kids. So perhaps this is the reason why parents of normal kids do not see or refuse to see the point of all this. Because the effect of junk food and sugar and iPad addiction, isn't immediate for their children. Think later. Think long-term.
Parents do get tired at the end of the day. After all, we all have to work to keep our kids in school, in therapy programs, in special education programs. But in trying to provide for our children, we sometimes forget the most important part of this equation-- our children. So how does a parent find that extra ounce of strength and stamina to engage their children instead of leaving them to the tempting arms of the iPad? How does a parent choose to discipline their children by providing for them food choices that are healthy?
The key perhaps is in trying to find the right balance. Still, easier said than done. But what if we put the same amount of effort in trying to put our children in the best schools, having the best things in life, struggle-free even, into finding that balance?
We'll never know if we don't try.
So when I came home after the conference, Andro narrated to me what the "bugoy boys" were up to while Mama was at work. Garret wrote on his writing book all by himself, got a sheet of wet wipes to wipe off some of the writings and continued to finish the task at hand, which if I may emphasize again, was of his own choosing. Unprompted. The Morgan, as he was about to tear his older brother's writing book, because that's what he is "into" right now, (I know, I have to do something to replace this with something more productive), was gently told by his papa, "No, Morgan." To which he immediately stopped what he was about to do, look at his papa and smiled at him. No words but an immediate response. And a clear acknowledgement and show of compliance.
In an alternate universe, in a non-autism universe, I often wondered and asked myself whether I could have been as "hands-on" as I am right now. I wondered whether I could have fed my children unhealthy foods relying on the fact that my kids are "okay". I wondered whether I could have let my kids spend time with themselves and the iPad, not exerting effort to really engage them in conversations or activities that could tap their potential. But we are not in an alternate universe. We are in this present universe. What we have is right here, right now. But if we were, then I wish to God I would still be the same kind of parent I am striving to be right now, perhaps even better-- more grateful, more conscious and aware of the needs of my boys. Better. To be better each day than yesterday.
Garret is 9 years old. Morgan is 6. Garret loves music. Morgan loves running. And even as it may seem hard for Garret to follow the music teacher, he is making progress slowly but surely. As for Morgan, our daily afternoon walks and run may well be a starting point for him to develop his abilities. Think track and field. Our road will not at all be straight. It will full of jagged paths and blind corners. But I know in my heart it will be worth it.
For now, we continue to celebrate the miracles that come to us every single day. Garret has come so far. Morgan has come so far. We all have come so far. To have reached this point entailed the help of numerous teachers and therapists. To have come this far, we had to strip away all our bravado, our sense of control, old beliefs and expectations. We had to open our minds and hearts to new and often difficult things while still holding on to what is precious. Love with Discipline. Patience with Urgency. Perseverance with Letting Go. Faith with Explicit Action. Courage with Discernment. For the miracles to arrive, we had to realize that we had to find that balance. Every single day.
For those of you who have chosen to read this post until this point, thanks for taking the time to. And I hope you find your balance too whether you have kids or not. Because in the end, trust me. It will all be worth it.