My son reminds me so often to celebrate the little things. He gets excited for every holiday – EVERY holiday. From Groundhog’s Day to Battery Day (February 18) to the traditional New Years’ to Christmas Day. Need some fun creative days to celebrate, check out this fantastic calendar! He reminds me that each day has a reason to be celebrated.
But, he also reminds me daily how hard it is to be a parent. Some days, weeks, months (if you have that teenager), it is so easy to focus on the negative. “My kid isn’t…. (fill in the blank) and should be.” Grades are down, a call to the principal’s office, a truancy notice. Some days it can be hard to want to love on our kids.
But, this month of love, I think we can (and should) do better. Our kids need to know they are loved just as much as we need to know our spouse or significant other loves us.
Here are some ways to bring more love into your relationships with your kids:
Encouraging words. We parents are often so quick to bring to light the negative actions of our children. And there is a good reason for that (discipline is essential to growth and development). But how quick are we to bring encouragement? When was the last time you told your kid you were proud of them? Impressed by them? Complimented them? This month, I encourage you to try to do this once a day and see how much richer your relationship with your child gets.
2. Play. This is so hard! Most parents work and parent. By the time work is done, we are exhausted and tired and the last thing we want to do is get on the ground and play blocks or Lego with the kiddos. We don’t have the energy to play a video game or draw. When we spend time with kids, the adults typically chose the activity. I encourage you this month, to purposely set aside 30 minutes a day where your child gets to pick the fun activity and then pour heart into it. After all, aren’t they more important than a replaceable job?
3. Cook. It is amazing what bonding happens over food. The smells. The textures. The colors. Cooking together is a great way to get quality time naturally. Teaching how to cook or experiencing new recipes and flavors together invites conversation, laughter, and play into the home. Enjoy the mess. Enjoy the yummy product. Enjoy the time with these precious children.
4. Apologize. How often have we yelled at our kids out of anger? Frustration? Exhaustion? How often have we gotten on to them about disrespect? Self-control? The choice of words? Too often as adults, we do not practice this vital step in our relationships with our children. Then we wonder why the attitude doesn’t change or the disrespect increases. We must be willing to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness from our children when we respond negatively to them. They will practice what is modeled to them. Apologize. Talk it out with them like you would in the reverse. Grow together. Be stronger together.
5. Date night: We make it a priority in my home to have a date night with my spouse. But, I think this same tradition should be made with the kids. Quality one-on-one time with each child is essential. It allows the child the opportunity to speak freely, laugh honestly, and get needed coaching without an audience of siblings. It is a perfect time to pour in honest discipleship into the next generation – who loves you above all other people. Once a week, take your kid out or spend some time in, just you two, and see how they prosper.
What are you doing to fan the flame of love in your children?
Congratulations! You survived 2020! Whew! If you are anything like me, it felt touch and go there for a while.
Welcome, 2021! After last year, it will be really easy for you to be better.
But, how can we be better? Better physically? Emotionally? Mentally?
Five days into 2021 and the world was shocked by riots in Washington, DC. I had a few friends reach out in utter dismal disappointment. Five days. That was all it took for them to feel like they had no hope in the world.
I introduced this group of friends, whom I love dearly and have known most of my life, to one of the five practices I will share with you today. That group text went from disappointment and fear to light and edifying.
How can we be the best we can be in 2021? Here are five simple steps I use that may help you.
Live Loved: Don’t be a slave to emotions. The last year was a roller coaster of emotions – fear, anger, depression, hope, joy, defiance. We have all felt them in such intensity for so long, it is easy to forget the most powerful emotion, word, magic, verb in the world: Love. As Lysa Terkerst so aptly put it, “No one can soar to the place of living loved when it’s a performance-based endeavor.” It is time to stop treating ourselves like we are reacting vessels. It is time to start acting. Time to reclaim the gift you are to the world. You are uniquely and wonderfully made for a purpose for a time such as this. Claim this. Love yourself. Love all the uniqueness that is you. Love the quirks. Love the weaknesses. Love the strengths.
2. Love your body: It took one hour for my inbox to be flooded with weight loss and exercise tips and workout boot camp invitations from when the ball dropped on December 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021. First, let me remind you: the weight loss industry is designed for you to FAIL and they KNOW it. So, ignore that. You know what you should eat and how you should work out. The healthiest thing you can do is start where you are and love your body. I love the above picture – she is so graceful and confident! Find one thing on your body you like and look yourself in the mirror daily and complement it. Eventually, you will come to love it and be able to find more things to love about yourself. When you love yourself, much like when you love a child, you want what is best for yourself. See yourself as the healthier version of you now and you will find you start choosing the healthier food at the store, ignoring the food table at gatherings, and investing in the people you are with more.
3. Speak Life: This past year has brought out the worst in people. Our language has turned against each other – our politics, our friends, even our families have been divided over how we view the state of things. Division is high and our language isn’t helping. Instead of listening to the views of others, we ignore them. Unfollow. Unfriend. We spread hate and insult those who disagree. We speak negativity and hate. But, our words have power. 2021 is a time to take our tongues back. It is time to speak love and life. We are uniquely made, so we have different opinions. That does not make one stupid and the other brilliant. It means our lives are different and the realities of what is happening in them are different. Stop. Listen. Then speak love. When we change our language to love and light we open doors to unity, growth, wonderful friendships, and grand love.
4. Be grateful: If follow me, you know how much I believe in the power of gratitude. There is a change that takes place in the heart when we recognize things we are thankful for. This year, thank you body. Your body does amazing things all day with your consciously thinking about it. Blood cells move to make sure organs work. White blood cells come to fight off bacteria and viruses. You have completely new skin every 27 days! Thank your body. Your family knows the worst of you (you know what I am talking about) and loves you anyway. Thank your family. Your teachers, therapists, and doctors are working diligently (some more than 60 hour weeks) to help ensure a healthy and smart community. Thank them. I practice a discipline of gratitude daily. I attempt to write out 3-5 things daily I am grateful for. This is particularly helpful on those days I am tired or short-tempered. It recenters me.
5. Take Chances: The new year is a great time to evaluate where we are and decide where we are going. What will your path be this year? One of anger and hate? One of love and acceptance? One of accomplishment? One of excuses? Be honest with yourself when you make this evaluation, and start moving those dreams to goals. Dreams are passing thoughts – goals are paths to reality. Goal setting can be easy and fun. So dream big and start making the reality you have always wanted. If you are new to goal setting, pick a small goal. Maybe you want to lose weight and have yo-yo dieted for years. Instead of a diet, set a goal to drink more water daily, or eat less sugar. This is quantifiable and you can it in baby steps. The single change will have a big change. Maybe your goal is to write a book – but you are not sure you’re an author. Set a goal to write 10-15 minutes two days a week. This is measurable and will get you in the practice to write the book later. Whatever the goal, if you survived 2020, you are set up with more grit, strength, and perseverance than you ever had in the past. Claim that and use it as fuel to take chances of making your dreams a reality.
If 2020 taught me anything, it is that I am stronger than I ever knew and able to do great good. I want you to know: you are loved. You are smart. You are important. You can do all you set your mind to. You are uniquely made for such a time as this.
I would love to hear your goals and thoughts on how you are going to make 2021 the best year yet. Drop a comment. If you like what you read, please share. Together, we can make this world a positive one.
Remember those days when you first met your partner and everything in the world was seen through rose-colored glasses? That person could do no wrong. All you wanted was to spend every last minute with them.
Then you got married.
Then you had kids.
Then you realized being an adult requires more work, patience, and determination that you ever thought possible.
Where did all the romance go? With the doctors’ visits, the football practices, the late-night homework sessions…oh, yeah, and the cooking, and cleaning, and the working two full-time jobs that sometimes take even more time.
This is particularly difficult for those who have children with special needs. It takes longer to trust other people watching your kids. If you are lucky to find someone qualified, they usually charge an arm and a leg for their services. As one of our daycare providers in Maryland once said, “We charge more because we know we are the only ones in the area who does this.”
In the special needs’ world, it is extortion at its best sometimes. According to MarketWatch, in America, 29% of people aged 18 to 34 are more than $500.00 in debt from overspending on dates spending an average of $1,596.00 a year on dates! Just dates. For those math folks, that is $133.00 a month and $33.25 a week.
Watching my parents, who married at age 16, had their first kid at 18, lost a child, had 7 more, and have gone to college (earning JD and PhDs) while raising us, I learned a successful marriage requires date night. My parents did it at least once a week – leave the kids and spend time with your spouse. So, when I married my husband, we agreed this is a requirement for our marriage too. Thank God, he agreed!
How do you find time for romance in the chaos without breaking the budget? First – make a budget. When you have a good budget, you can really enjoy things more.
Also, for those who qualify, look into your local Respite Care providers. Respite care is short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center. We use this to help with grocery shopping, errands, prepping for holidays and so much more.
Before You Get Started
Before you get started, make sure you are scheduling this and putting it on the calendar. This is a priority. Then take turns planning them – surprise each other. Use this time to talk to each other (not about work, kids, or household). No excuses – date night is a priority. Never make excuses outside date night. I promise you date nights in your marriage will help you in parenting, relationships, and life in general.
Here are 12 creative no cost dates that helped our marriage cultivate instead of breaking our budget:
Without a sitter
1. Movie and Wine: When we first married, this was a great one! We would move the couch out of the way, lay down some pillows and blankets, and start a fire. The lights low, the cozy setting was perfectly matched with our favorite wine and a good movie. It is important the movie is something you both can enjoy. Some of our favorites are The Princess Bride, The Greatest Showman, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future series, and Indiana Jones series. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
2. Craft night: This is one of my favorites! My husband got me a subscription craft kit for Christmas. Instead of doing the craft alone, he does them with me. We like Adults and Crafts. For $33.00 a month, we get everything we need for a great date night. Once the kids are in bed, we enjoy time creating together. The nice thing about this date night is it can happen over multiple days sometimes. Certain crafts require setting/drying time, so date night becomes date weekend.
3. Themed movie marathons: This is a fun one that can also extend beyond the single night. We like to do movie marathons. Movies with sequels are great, but you are not limited to just this. We did a marathon of watching all Disney Animated movies in order. Our next one will be to watch all their live-action movies in order. This is also a great time to binge your favorite shows! This is great because it lets link back to our childhood, and often springs great conversation. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
4. Play video games: So many times, I hear wives complain their husband spends his time playing video games instead of investing in them. Use this. Before I met my husband, I did not know video games had stories…like movies! Apparently, they do – and some are really interesting. Husbands, play the stories. Wives, watch the story (and your beau) conqueror all cheering him on. Not interested in the story, I paint or do a craft while listening sometimes. I am with my spouse, participating with him, and learning more about him.
5. Game night: This sounds like a cliché, but there is truth in this. Games have the power of sparking great conversation, building trust, and bringing the gift of laughter. We particularly like this night when we find new or unusual games (but the classic Sorry, Boggle, Scrabble, and Chess is just as good). Some of our favorite games are Shut the Box, Liars Dice, Vertell’s, and Qiddler.
6. Read books: I am an avid reader as it is, but it is so much more fun reading with my hubby. I like things like novels where he likes ghost stories. We have both really enjoyed historical pieces as well. This often has given us ideas for travel, routines, and date nights. We often switch between the two. Or, my favorite is when we start with his ghost stories and finish with my devotional or scripture reading.
7. Karaoke: There is something special about getting crazy in front of a mic with your special someone. No matter your skill level, this is a great date. Not ready to show off in public, show off in the safety of your living room with those you trust the most. Laughter is guaranteed no matter what on this date.
With a sitter
Movies and dinner are great. But search out happy hours, Taco Tuesdays, and specials first. The occasional, movie, fancy restaurant and trampoline park are great. But do not make these the go-to.
8. Coffee/Brew dates: These are so much fun and cost as little as $5.00 a person. We like to find a local brew company or coffee shop and enjoy the local fare. This is great for nights that have trivia or open mic. If nothing else, it is cheap entertainment supporting the local small businesses in the community to reminisce about for years to come.
9. Painting with a Twist: This is a great night out as a couple. Creating art (with someone to help if needed) and some wine/beer of your choice. You both get to be a little goofy and come home with a souvenir at the end. This is usually a splurge night for us as a couples event can range from $15.00 per person to $50.00. It is best to look in advance to ensure you like what is being taught to make in advance. We especially like to do this on fundraising nights as we know the proceeds help a local non-profit.
10. Dinner at a bar: This can also be a splurge night. But we like to go during happy hours and specials. With the right happy hour and special, we can spend less than $50.00 in total. This is a great way to sample new places. It is also fun to re-enact the first date or enjoy the simple pleasure of trying something new on the menu together.
11. Fishing/hiking: We love the adventure of the outdoors. A great hike (even in the winter with some hot chocolate) or sitting on the side of the bank with a book while he fishes are perfection. This FREE activity lends itself to experiencing nature, getting much-needed vitamin D, and feeling like you accomplished something together. Fish at the end of the day is also a great FREE meal.
12. Beach day: There is something about the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand that brings a peace in the sole. The sun, surf, and sand are a great way to get out and be silly. We like to pitch a tent and then enjoy playing in the water, watching dolphins, and building sandcastles.
13. BonusSex: I debated putting this here, but I think it is vital to all marriages. All marriages. Going too long without sex is detrimental to the foundation of the marriage. Many marriage counselors, pastors, and your parents (who are still together after decades of marriage) will all say sex is essential to the relationship. Sex reinforces the foundation, reconnects intimacy, rebuilds, and strengthens relationships and so much more! For more on this, check out this great article on healthy sex in marriage, and this article on why married sex is the best sex.
Loitering. Looting. Larceny. The streets are full of people making awful choices.The headlines read of significant disruption. It is scary – regardless of race, religion, political affiliation or health.
We live in a society where we wonder, where have all the good men gone, as a popular Bonnie Tyler song puts it?
We wonder how we have come to a place of violence over diplomacy, hatred over love, and narcissism over selflessness.
It starts with our dads. It takes a dad to teach manhood.
Moms are great teachers of academics, compassion and mercy, but, sorry moms. There are somethings we women just cannot do as well as men. One of those things is teaching a man how to be a man.
What our society is calling out for is for dads to be recognized for their importance and necessity.
Before you read this and think, “I am single mom, I don’t have a choice,” or “my son’s dad walked out on us,” or “that is just not an option;” let me encourage you in is.
There are so many ways to be a father figure to the next generation that does not require biology.
There are so many ways to be a dad to those in your neighborhood, community, and churches. All it takes is the willingness to pour into the hearts of kids and the effort of setting aside an hour a week, a call a day, showing up to the milestones. Be a coach. Be a mentor. Be a Big Brother. Be a youth leader. Be willing to answer the call.
One dad who has really epitomized this heart for love and mentoring is my brother, Jason Black (if you have time, check out his story of surviving two near death experiences and rising above it; you won’t be disappointed).
Jason spent his years growing up helping take care of us (there are seven in total). Having spent this time investing in us, we were not surprised he delayed having children. What did surprise us was that he had four biologically and found he still had more love to give. He then adopted two more.
I was privileged to live with this family right after grad school for a couple of years. I got to see firsthand the heart of this father. He faced challenges of multiple kids, finances, and the strange looks as people saw his two children of color and one child with special needs.
Never did he let these challenges affect how much love he poured into his kids. Each child, with different needs, are loved the same amount. They are held to the same standard of excellence. They are encouraged, challenged to be their best, and taught how to stand up for what is right and excellent while accepting responsibility and accountability for their actions – good or bad.
My nephew was adopted from the foster system at eight. He struggled with identity, self-esteem, and accepting love – for good reason. He had been in the system his whole life, in more than five foster homes by the time he came into our family life, and the stories he could tell you would astonish the most hard-hearted. He had lived a hard life no child should have to live.
When Jason and Tausha took on this opportunity to love someone more, they knew it would be a challenge (what kid isn’t). This actually disrupted the birth order in the family making my nephew the oldest; it brought in anxiety and frustration to the house as everyone transitioned to a new normal. They had been warned about having a child of color and the stigma, racism, and anger that would follow them around the rest of their lives. It would have been easy to quit or say no from the get-go.
But they did not. They chose to love instead of ignoring. They chose to accept this little guy the way he was.
Khristian is now a star athlete on the high school football team. He was featured as an upcoming athlete to watch as he begins embarking on transitioning from childhood to adulthood and the college world. He has grown from a shy child into a confident, loving, intelligent man. This was possible because he was invested in by a man who was not genetically tied to him but is now tied for life through the bond of love.
Khristian is a man who steps up in times of trouble and anxiety. When his younger brother was bitten by a Western Diamondback Rattle Snake and spent two weeks in a hospital having multiple surgeries and treatments, Khristan stepped up at the house as a leader to his younger five siblings. While his parents took shifts at the hospital, he helped with homework, calmed nerves, and helped with all the little things that often get missed in times of great stress. He took the leadership learned from his dad and invested love where it was needed.
When I look at this family, I see exactly what our society needs. We need more men to pour into the others. We need more Jasons who are willing to step up where there are holes in the community. We need heroes. We need to celebrate men and the importance of them.
We can do better than looting in the streets. We can do better than ignoring men. We can do so much more than accepting the narrative women are better than men.
Let’s celebrate how much men have, and continue, to do for our children, our communities, and our nation. Let’s spend this week leading up to #FathersDay remembering how important the family unit is. The father unit is. Let’s celebrate #DadsMatter, #BackLivesMatter.
Get involved. The nation has spent the past two weeks calling out for dad’s, mentors, and leaders to step up. The phone is ringing. Are you going to answer?
An easy way to celebrate dads this week is to join a youth group, coach a sports team, volunteer with a literacy program, or join Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Don’t let genetics be what stops you from being the mentor and coach so many of our youth are hungry for. Let me know what you did. Send me you stories and be sure to use the #dadmatter.
“I can’t seem to find a groove.” “All the doors keep shutting in my face.” “If schools don’t open back up, my kid and I might not be on speaking terms till graduation…eight years from now.” “Last night I ate an entire bar of cookie dough and hid in my closet for an hour just for some peace and quiet.”
Parenting was hard before COVID-19, but at least there was a break with school and playdates. At least there was a distraction with school projects and team sports. At least it did not feel like you were in this on your own with no instruction manual. Can you relate?
Countless friends of mine who were so excited for a “forced stay-cation” with their spouses only a few weeks ago, are now praying diligently for their spouse to go back to work and leave them alone.
Work, for those who are blessed to be employed, has begun to feel like every move is the wrong move. Teams no longer work like well-oiled machines. The discord and frustration have heightened as plans to re-open and get “back to normal” seem to be weeks away or worse ill-advised. Minutia seems to be the focus instead of quality production.
Emotions are high. Patience is low. The threads of relationships have started to fray. As a friend jokingly stated a few weeks ago, “We are failing the apocalypse on easy mode.”
Before those emotions take over, think about what that statement means. We are not combating corpses that have come to life to eat our brains. We are not fighting Thanos. We are not fighting aliens who want to take over the planet.
We are fighting a virus invisible to the naked eye. We are fighting our own selfish desires to have what we want when we want it how we want it.
The playbook for this fight? Be in the comfort of our homes, watch Netflix, eat bonbon, and enjoy a walk outside with the people we love the most.
So why is domestic violence growing at an alarming rate globally? Why are we finding ways to yell at each other? Why do we feel like we are alone in the fight?
“Why” is the wrong question. We know why.
It’s time we ask what are we going to do to change this behavior and emotional state? In ourselves. For our families, friends and coworkers.
1. Metrics: Anyone who has worked a single day in any industry hears the word metrics and knows their bottom line will be affected by this one six-letter word. Those in production industries work diligently to get their metrics up and keep them up. Metrics are great for giving us an insight into how we are doing and where we need to work a little harder or differently. This is a successful model in businesses across industries. Let’s use this model in our personal lives.
Set a metric for the production of quality family life. How much time do we spend investing in our families compared to watching that Netflix show? How often do we have to nag/ask our teenager to do their laundry versus them doing it themselves? How often are we serving others versus serving ourselves? These key metrics can give a great baseline for significant growth in our personal and professional lives.
2. Change your Focus: The most impactful leader in history, once stated, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Another way to say this is where your focus is, there your heart will be also.
In his book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Hans Rosling gives an excellent realistic view of the world using stats and studies from his years as a physician and academic. Rosling uses global trends in health economics to show how much better the world is than we allow ourselves to believe. Understanding stats and metrics are so much more important than the number. Let’s use stats as therapy. Change the focus from the negative to focusing on the positive and the progress made and keep moving forward.
3. Be Grateful: We are not fighting zombies! We are not fighting aliens! We get to spend time with our families. We get to have a home-cooked meal at the kitchen table. We get to get back to our roots. 1950’s America has been idealized for decades. Now is our chance to get that back; only this time we are working from home on a more flexible schedule. For more ways to shift to a grateful attitude check out my blog on the power of words.
4. Work on that New Year’s Resolution: Did you know 80% of New Years Resolutions fail? There is a lot research into why this is. Time. Thinking not doing. Doing it alone. Not tracking progress. Forbes, BusinessInsider, and Psychology Today all address this.
We have been given the opportunity to not only have the time to work on these resolutions, but to do it in an environment with our best support system – our family. Want to lose weight? Use the time you would have been commuting for a work out with your partner. Want to get better in your industry? Read together for one hour a day. Want to know what is really happening in your teenager’s life? Get on the video game with them. You get healthy, spend quality time, and invest in each other. For more ideas check out my blog on surviving social distancing.
5. Be the Solution: We know there is a problem. Instead of complaining about the problem, choose to be the solution. Find ways to get involved. For some great resources on how to get involved in all aspects of the community including first responders, teachers, religious leaders and more, check out my articles on ways to give back and Captain Corona and the 19-COVID Warriors by @MelissaGratia.
This is not the apocalypse. There is time to redeem 2020 and really begin to change the world, our world, our communities, for the better. We don’t have to fail quarantine and social distancing. We have everything we need to use this time to reset and refresh. It’s time to choose. Where is your focus?
“Mom, can we go on that roller coaster?” Our five-year-old son asked to ride his first big-boy roller coaster –the Super Duper Looper. Having verified the height requirement (and that it was safe for a five-year-old), we all jumped in line. Never did we think that the very first thing that would happen on this ride was to be flipped entirely upside down! I thought for sure our son would get off the ride and hate it.
I was wrong.
“Let’s do it again!” he screamed excitedly as he exited (to my utter dismay).
But that ride taught me some very valuable lessons.
There are ups and down
When we first found about Autism, we did not know much about it. We are still learning about now. But something I wish we were told at the onset was that life is a roller coaster.
Most people hear that and think of Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates and very rightly say, “Obviously.” But what I am talking about goes further than the what nutty delicacy life dishes out. Life with Autism is taking two steps forward and one step back. It is a constant up and down. It is fast paced and often takes your breath away.
When our kiddo was younger, he could not talk and potty training was difficult to say the least. At four we would spend a week getting him potty trained and then send him to his other parent for the weekend. Every time he came home not potty trained.
Every time we would have him using a word to communicate
(just one word) we would send him back to the other parent and he would come back
mute…well, screaming like a banshee is probably more appropriate.
But he is potty trained and he can carry on lengthy
conversations…as long as they are on a topic he wants to discuss.
But that process of two steps forward and one step back is exhausting. It can be affected by the smallest changes in routine to the largest. Moves between homes. Moves across the country. Different teachers. Different subjects. Developing hormones.
It is really easy to see the negative in life circumstances and feel like you will never reach the goal. Sometimes the low of the rollercoaster is really low. Sometime your stomach lives in your brain. Sometimes it is easy to forget how high you fell from or how far the child has come. It is easy to think your lives are the valleys when in reality there have been many mountains…and very close together.
You will reach your goals. They will. With solid routine, quality time, and people who will fight for them, each child with special needs can and do make and break through their goals.
Expect greatness and you will get it…eventually
I have a neck injury and a weak stomach. Going on a roller coaster I thought was great
for a child of five, I was not anticipating breaking my neck and holding in my
breakfast. I very much disliked that
ride. I thought my son with sensory
issues and an intense sensitivity to loud noises would hate that ride too.
But my son did not.
He absolutely loved it!
I came to learn that the deep pressure provided on a roller coaster is really helpful to kids with neuro-sensitivity. I learned that my son has a Big-Gulp need for motion…I, on the contrary need, a teacup and call it good. I learned that my son has no fear (except one…but I am keeping that to our family for now).
Not only did he love the ride, he wanted more of it. He wanted to do every ride. The bigger and faster the ride the better it was for our son.
By making the one decision to try something new, outside
everyone’s comfort level, against what seemed to be logical given his diagnosis,
we got something magical!
I got to experience his first roller coaster ride with him (which is awesome because every other ride he wants to go with his dad). I got to see my son over come legitimate challenges to sound, delayed gratification waiting in line, dealing with enclosed spaces in the queue and many more. My son taught me in that moment that he can do anything he puts his mind too – no matter the challenges he faces.
This too shall pass
When I was on that ride I just kept counting down the moment until it passed. My stomach was in my head. My neck was definitely in the wrong place. I was strapped so tightly down I could not breathe. I could not wait for that ride to be over.
Sometimes, when dealing with special needs, it is easy to
get stuck in that stomach-flipping moment.
It is easy to think, “We have come so far and he regressed so much” or “Why
are we having the same argument with the school and the district” or “Why can’t
he play like everyone else?” It is easy
to get stuck in the valleys and gorges and canyons.
But I encourage you to look toward the mountains on either
side. The one they just came down (because
that will show you what they are capable of) and the one they are about to
start climbing (because that one will always be better than the last.
There is an end in sight to every dark valley.
For me it helps to remember things they have accomplished. I often remind myself that my son is grade level, even though he misses a ton of school for doctors’ appointments. I remind myself that at five my son was not talking and now I can’t get him to stop. I remind myself that he went from not knowing how to make a friend to having many at his birthday party.
Yes, even these dark gorges will pass. And they will pass sooner than we think. And we will be on to the next big and wonderful
goal and accomplishment next week.
Box of Chocolates
As this year begins, I encourage you to see the mountains
for what they are – accomplishments. Take
the valleys for what they are – lessons to be learned. And move forward with a purpose and vision of
accomplishing more than you ever thought possible. We did.
And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Being the middle of seven children, I have seen the gambit in behaviors. Everything from stitches and fights to games of “War” and dances. I have been blessed to always have a sibling on my side when life turns a sour leaf and family around for holidays…and sometimes when I don’t want them.
But, not everyone is as blessed.
Special needs children are one of the largest groups of children in America…and unfortunately, one of the most often forgotten and ostracized. Many hear the words “special needs” or “Autism” or “Down Syndrome” and immediately think “stupid,” “hard,” and “pity.”
They could not be farther from the truth!
Our little bundle of joy was diagnosed with Autism at age three. And, like all parents who hear that, there was some fear and trepidation (a discussion for another time). At the time, and up until he was about five, our kiddo did not speak. There was loud screams, throwing, tantrums and the like because speech communication was not possible. Getting dressed was a chore as he could not put socks on by himself much less zip a zipper to his pants or button his jacket.
Hard. Yes. But, do I need to be pitied? NO!
You see when my son first started to say small sentences – PURE JOY! When he started to be able to zip his pants – JUBILATION! When he started to got straight A’s having to be pulled from class on a daily basis for doctor’s appointments – PRIDE would be an understatement. I even told my husband my kid was the smartest because he did what streamlined kids did in half the time!
What living with a special needs kid has taught me is… [Read more…]
1. Celebrate Life
In our day and age, it is really easy to get down and out. We are inundated with negative thoughts and reality. News broadcasts deliver only negative news and life hits hard when it hits. Seeing the negative is like pouring a cup of coffee – most of us do it without even thinking.
Living with Autism teaches celebration of life. When you can constantly find growth it is easy to be optimistic. When you can see that life is not in a diagnosis but a person it is easy to enjoy the beauty of a hand-painted birdhouse or a freshly made pot of coffee.
Life is about teamwork. And when you have a great team (my husband is a rock star!) the support makes life that much more colorful and brilliant.
2. Enjoy the Little Things
I will admit there are days when life feels like it will sucker punch me every chance it gets. But who’s life doesn’t do that? Living with special needs does not mean that life is easier or harder than for anyone else. It just means we (those of us who have special needs in our lives) face different challenges.
So, like every other family, we celebrate the little things.
We celebrate cutting a straight line. We celebrate our little one talking and playing WITH a peer. We celebrate the full sentence. We celebrate jokes.
These little celebrations may seem little but they are HUGE accomplishments. And they remind us that we are more than scary words. Doctors do not always know best. Just like with every other kid, our kid is more than the sum of his doctors’ visits and school meetings.
3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Prior to special needs, I would sweat the small stuff. Little things like my sister not emptying the lint trap in our family dryer or how much the scale tipped when I stepped on it were heavy weights on my shoulders.
Autism taught me life is more than the small stuff. There are bigger things to worry about in life like family, doctors, and school.
If it is a choice between my son thumb sucking while focusing on homework or throwing a tantrum because he does not want to do homework, guess which one I am ignoring?
If it is a choice between not reading and reading a comic book, guess which one I am telling his teacher he gets to read?
If it is a choice between rocking in his seat and being quiet or jumping out of it screaming, “Pick me! Pick Me!”, guess which one I am telling the teacher to ignore?
There are big battles and small battles and some battles you just don’t fight. Special needs have taught me how to better see the difference.
4. Don’t Miss Out!
I know many families in the special needs world. Many on the Autism Spectrum. A lot of families think this diagnosis is an end-all to life as a family. Many do not leave the home…ever. Vacation – thing of the past. Trips – never going to happen. Movies – dream on!
When the word “Autism” came into our lives, our son was not talking, not potty-trained, screamed 90% of the time, was very hyperactive and threw tantrums that would make The Hulk look like a mouse. But, we made the choice early on to not let the diagnosis dictate our lives. We made the choice to hold our son to the same standards as any other child and not let his diagnosis be his crutch.
(I know I hit a nerve with some of you just now. I know there is a spectrum and big trips are hard. I know about Regressive Autism. I know first hand about the challenges of tantrums, non-verbals, and the complete difficulty it is to even get childcare for a couple hours of respite. I understand the reason some families choose to stay home. No judgment. It is just not what we chose.)
We chose to take our son out in public to things like museums, theme parks, and, yes, movies.
We did not do this without a plan. We made sure to follow all applicable guidance. But we did discover, that for our kiddo, the exposure helped with social situations, speech, and relationships.
We have a don’t miss out mentality that has served us well.
It is easy to forget to set time aside for yourself in a regular run-of-the-mill-under-the-radar kind of life. But add in multiple weekly doctors appointments in different cities on different days, school IEP’s, parent-teacher conferences and regular life of working full-time and it becomes really easy to forget about yourself and your family.
I don’t mean you forget your family. What I mean is that it is easy to forget to spend quality time with them.
We have learned that time apart each day whether in a workout, reading a book or playing a video game (yes, I said it) is essential to sanity!
We have learned that game nights, arts and crafts and reading together unite us beyond diagnosis and beyond the stress of the battle.
We have learned that date night does not always (and usually doesn’t need) a sitter. We enjoy a movie night in front of the fire with a glass of wine. We enjoy reading to each other. We enjoy sitting out in the hot tub and talking about life. None of these cost a lot of money. None of these require a baby sitter. And all are an essential investment in our marriage.
More to Life
So, does special needs mean a life of hard work? Yes! But whose life is not hard? Does it mean my life is different than most? Yes, but who wants a normal life? Does it mean I am to be “pitied?” No! If nothing else, I have been blessed beyond most. I have learned more than most. I have enjoyed life more than most.
Don’t let the diagnosis stop you from loving and living life. Don’t let a diagnosis of others scare you off from participating in their life. Don’t let the social understanding of special needs (which is highly lacking and often a misrepresentation) be your understanding of them. Be open. Be honest. Be willing. Your life will never be the same again.