Leaps and Bounds

A beautiful thing happened last night.  A dream that I had long given up on came true; my son said, “I love you, mama.” to me completely on his own!

He’s said it before with prompting, or copying his sisters, but never on his own.

I was laying down with him, trying to help him sleep, gave him a kiss on the forehead and he said it.

“I love you, mama.”

His bed may have been cramped, what with sharing it with every stuffy in the room, and crazy hot (he sleeps with a heavy sleeping bag AND a weighted denim blanket) but in that moment, there was no where in the world I would have rather been.

Nowhere!

I can remember the first time my girls uttered the same phrase, and it was heartwarming and special and one of those moments that I treasured in my heart.  I’m not trying to downplay their accomplishments, but I knew the moments would come with them, it was just a matter of “when”.  With my boy, it has always been an “if”.

Two weeks ago was another leap.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of where my son is on the spectrum, is his inability to communicate pain and sickness.  Again, the girls can tell me if it’s a tummy ache or a scraped knee.  With him, however, if I can’t actually see the incident it’s little more than a guessing game.  This particular day, he was upset about a “boo-boo” – not uncommon.  I asked, as I always do if I can’t see it, where the boo-boo was.  I expected him to simply restate that he was suffering from a boo-boo when he surprised me again.

“On my arm.”

Wait. What?

This ability to explain his pain has just opened up a whole new world to our family.  No more guesses (well, not as many), no more frustration.  He can say it and I can help him!

Your child’s stumbling block may not be words.  Perhaps it’s trying a new food, sitting in a waiting room and NOT needing the iPad, tolerating a public event without headphones on.  Whatever it may be, celebrate each tiny victory as though your child has just won Olympic gold.  Quite likely, he/she has worked harder to reach this milestone than many medalists!

In a month from now, when the memory has faded and this new step is part of everyday life, remember it when your child seems to be reverting.  Those days when you’re exhausted from the fight.  When your already shattered heart sustains more damage because it’s just not fair that someone so wonderful should have to work so very hard to do the things everyone else takes for granted.  On those hard days, remember the good.  Don’t just remember what he achieved that day, remember his smile because he KNEW what a breakthrough he’d made.  Remember that for that moment, your heart was whole and soaring.

Remember that moment and start looking ahead to the next one.  Never stop dreaming big, big dreams for your kids.

Remember that the victories you’ve already had, you probably never expected.  The one you’re not expecting in the future will happen.

It’s coming, mama.

My Child Failed…and I Couldn’t Be Happier

I explained to her that there was no justification in being upset with the instructor as he gave her everything she needed to be successful, it was her choice to not take it.

We live in a world that confuses “young at heart”, with arrested development.  Being young at heart means living life with vitality regardless of how many times your odometer has rolled over.  Enjoying each moment and maintaining an optimistic innocence.  It means to never stop seeing the beauty and possibility in this life we’re given and to keep learning and growing.

Unfortunately, so many have interpreted this happy little mantra to mean, “I don’t  have to grow up.”.

People of all age groups who have chosen to stay young at heart still have responsibilities. They maintain employment, pay their bills on time, have stresses and disappointments.  It’s in how they choose to let these things shape them that determines their “heart age”.

Someone who casts blame for their poor choices on others, lacks follow through on commitments, allows (or demands) others to support them in their frivolity or laziness is not young at heart.  That person is, quite simply, immature.

I know some of those people, and have often thought, “Oh those poor parents who are stuck supporting their adult children.”

“I can’t believe that he has the nerve to buy a brand new vehicle and take extravagant holidays while his parents clean up after him, buy his food and let him live in their house.  He doesn’t even have a job.”

Those poor parents.

Then one day I realized that this adult child is simply living the life he or she was raised to live.

Maybe he failed an important math test so mom badgers the math teacher until he gets a re-write.

She only showed up to 2 volleyball practises and put in minimal effort when she was there.  Dad bullies the coach into putting her in the game and benching the kids who were committed and gave their all.

Forcing the situation until our children get what they want is not preparing them for life.  Twenty, thirty, forty plus years of this kind of parenting only leads to a generation of entitlement and self-centeredness.

I’m not talking about helping out your adult children for a time when life has hit them hard.  A job loss and no way to feed the kids, the death of a spouse, serious illness.  Sacrificing for our kids in circumstances like these is loving them.

Standing up for a true injustice – that’s good parenting.  Maybe your daughter is the committed player benched because the other girl’s dad is louder and angrier.  In those circumstances, we stand against injustice and teach our children to do the same for others.

As a teen, I was a conscientious student.  I generally did well in school and followed the rules.  I may have been a teacher’s pet in a class or two.  So one ill-thought out afternoon a friend and I decided to skip one class.  I’m not sure about her but this was my FIRST skip!  She was an equally well-mannered student.  At the time we felt completely justified in our decision – looking back now we were just being stupid.

Being novices at this type of behaviour, it all blew up in our faces and we each received a 1 day suspension for our efforts.  Meanwhile, chronic offenders walked away without so much as a slap on the wrist.  When we questioned our principal, her response was bluntly, “We are going to make an example of you.”

I still hold this as a mild injustice.

What did our parents do?  Told us each to be productive and clean our respective houses the next day since we wouldn’t be at school.

Yes, our parents were aware of the injustice in this situation, but they also saw the bigger need to teach us to respect the authority of those over us.  Twenty-ish years later, I still thank them for this lesson.

So back to the title of this article…

This summer my oldest 2 children did another round of swimming lessons.  In my son’s first lesson I was going to be helpful and point him continuously back to his teacher when he wandered away from the group.  I had to do this a number of times in that first 30 minutes.

The second lesson the teacher (wisely) took them to a different area of the pool where my son couldn’t see me.  Guess how that lesson went?  Swimmingly (full pun intended)!  My son responded to his teacher far better without my interference and the whole class benefited from the lack of distraction.

I sat in the observation room for the remainder of the lessons and my son did just fine.

My daughter had a great time in her lessons, but halfway through I noticed that she wasn’t jumping into the deep end, but it was more like slipping in at the edge of the pool.  They all had lifejackets on so there was really nothing to be afraid of.   She and I discussed this and she took no heed to my warning.  In fairness, she had never experienced failure before.  We have set up a cushy world that just keeps pushing our kids along regardless of their performance or effort.  In this we have failed them.

So the end of lessons came and my daughter failed her level.  Believe it or not, I was relieved as I expected her to be pushed through to the next level anyway.  The fact was, she hadn’t earned it.  She didn’t even try to jump in.  Not once.

It allowed for a wonderful teachable moment for us.  I explained to her that there was no justification in being upset with the instructor as he gave her everything she needed to be successful, it was her choice to not take it.  The consequence of her lack of effort was that she now had to go through the exact same lessons again, now with little kids.  And if she failed again, her little brother would be ahead of her.  The other consequence was that her father and I now had to pay a second time for her to learn the exact same lessons again.

My prayer is that she will now carry with her the knowledge that life is worth the effort.  A half-hearted  attitude produces a half-hearted life.

What “tough-love” lessons have you carried with you that have shaped you into who you are today?

Wendy

“So I Saw This Thing on Pinterest…”

As far as my husband is concerned, this phrase ranks right up there with, “We need to talk.” or “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”!

Most husbands would just roll their eyes, maybe groan a little wondering what food they’ll be eating out of a mason jar for the next week. My husband, however, would LOVE IT if that was his biggest inconvenience.

Unfortunately for him, he knows that my latest idea will be HIS newest project. I have some talents; baking, writing, quoting movie/TV lines to fit anywhere in a conversation, and I tell some of the driest and lamest jokes around (yes, I am proud of that one)! Working with my hands? Other than the baking and writing… “not so much” Mad About You (see what I did there?).

So because God didn’t gift me with a talent for building or crafts or any of that stuff, He gifted me with my husband. I can SEE the project in my head. I can carefully plan out the steps. I can get all the supplies together and watch tutorial after tutorial…but my hands just can’t do it! Hubby, on the other hand, not only has the talent to build whatever I want, but to translate the vaguest and most poorly thought out concept from my head into an actual THING that looks like the thing it’s supposed to be!

He amazes me time and time again. Not only that he can MAKE what I kinda sorta think I want, but that he can make it better than I even conceptualized it! Not to mention that he actually has the patience to do the harebrained projects that I come up with in the first place!

Two years ago, I asked for some shelving in the basement storage area. I got a full U-Shaped storage area with shelves built specific to the storage containers I have so that nothing has to be stacked on top of anything else, right up to the ceiling. It also included a bar to hang out of season coats for the next time we need them so if winter hit sooner than expected, I wouldn’t have to tear apart the basement hurriedly looking for jackets and ski pants for the kids.

Shortly after that, I asked for a basic stand to put my front load washer and dryer on (I’m way too cheap to pay retail prices for those!) so that the kids would quit pressing the buttons and washing or drying nothing. I got fantastic, strong, steel frames that custom fit my set, had rubber feet so as not to damage my floor, and space to store my laundry baskets on those rare occasions that all the laundry got put away.

rainbow snack
Playschool snack on a rainy day.

Now, there are some Pinterest ideas that I have successfully completed. My life/bills/home school filing system, marshmallow and Fruit Loops rainbow snacks for playschool, many of our suppers originated with a Pinterest search. Those things I can do, but I still wouldn’t
have had the ideas on my own.

IMG_0278
Hand painted growth chart custom made by a very dear friend.

I also have friends who are crazy talented, including the one who made my family this amazing growth chart this summer.  It is admired (and often coveted) by everyone who comes into this house. It not only charts the growth of my children, but
distracts guests from the, uh, lived-in look that is my house most days.

I have a sister who can create the most beautiful art with the photographs she takes.  She also has the ability to host amazing events and make her guests all feel special and unique and loved.

 

My other sister is able to really peer into peoples’ circumstances and see their needs. Then she is the type to “do the work” to meet those needs for people with no thought of the cost to herself. Need a driveway shoveled but feeling under the weather? She has it done before you even think to ask. She also has the gift of being able to talk me down in my more anxious moments, or cheer my up in my depressed moments. No easy task!

My mom bakes and knits amazing things; my dad is the baby whisperer (he has soothed more fussy babies than I can count, including my own).

My oldest daughter can take ANYTHING from around the house and create some type of craft or instrument out of it. I could go on and on and on about the talented people that I know, and I’m sure that you could too. I just love the variety that God has placed in us!

Just like God enabled my husband to be talented where I am not, and vice versa, He brings others into our lives to walk along side of us and help us do what we can’t do on our own. Sometimes that means that our friend creates something beautiful for our home. Maybe a family member helps us develop a talent so that we can not only do things on our own, but also bless others with our talents. We are not created to go through life relying only on ourselves.

Neither are we created to rely solely on others. God wants us to depend on Him! Other people can fill some of our needs some of the time, but only God can “complete” us. People will let us down, whether intentionally or not, but God won’t. He can’t. It’s not who He is.

Our talents and abilities come from God. We are to use them for His glory. To help or encourage those whom he has placed in our lives. To help others see and develop the talents He has placed within them.

And don’t think for one second that you only get one set of abilities and that’s it. Ask anyone who’s known my for the last 15ish years and they have heard me say that teaching is absolutely the worst possible thing I could be asked to do. I loathed it, I was terrible at it and the students suffered. Whether it was Sunday School or anything – it was not a good idea to put me in that job.

Three years ago my daughter started BG Club and I signed on as a helper in her class – crowd control for preschoolers, I can handle that! In the third or fourth week, the teacher had to step down because of a change in her work schedule and I was thrust into the position. I begrudgingly (oh so begrudgingly) endured it for the next three sessions. I took one session off because I had a newborn and thought that was it. I was free!

“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in” (you knew that was coming!). But something happened. God changed my heart and gave me a love for these kids and this club and suddenly I was able to teach and teach well.

If He can make me love and be good at something I had detested most of my life, he can develop talents in anybody!

Now I continue to teach BG Club and home school my daughter.

What are your talents? What talents do you want God to develop in you? Who has he placed in your life with abilities to complement yours? More importantly, whose life has he placed you in? And how can you be a blessing to them?

I would love to hear from you!