October 29, 2014 § 2 Comments
Yesterday a note from my son’s aide raised concerns over an observed detachment from academics. The lines of worry were repetitive, missing content and wasting time. I’m not surprised, it is a well-rehearsed slight of hand. My son is disappearing from his classrooms; escaping into distraction.
Instinctively, I began to identify pieces of my son’s diagnoses that would inform the familiar complications that accompany each school year. I could identify the absence of sensory opportunities or itemize the need for particular modifications that might ease specific challenges unique to my son’s needs; offer incentives or suggest consequences. Instead my attention was drawn to the landscape of his support and wondering where he might connect; less concerned with the machinery of his accommodations, but unsettled by the absence of connectivity to the interpersonal experience of his days.
I realized with haunting clarity my son isn’t looking for a reason to try, he is looking for someone who cares.
You can follow his path to invisibility in the relationships he could not cultivate across years of broken school day experiences. Teachers, secure in his ability and knowledge, would allow my son to sit at his desk left to his own interests. There were endless notebooks filled with ideas and curiosities; sketches of inventions and notes on topics to research in place of assignments. Classroom aides, without essential training, misunderstood challenges and innocently, without malice, failed to develop successful resources. A chorus of recycled compliments would glean over complicated pieces of struggle with generic statements of intelligence suffocating expressions of need with a weighted assumption of ability. Add to this repetitious activities without the richness of purpose undermining the value of effort and unkindnesses of peers overlooked by adults who were failed guardians of compassion and you inform a method of survival by way of invisibility.
Of course, I wear my blame in the tender places of guilt; consistently second guessing unspoken unhappiness with misplaced confidence. It is a community that erases a child’s spirit and I am my son’s first witness to fading. Hindsight is an unkind mirror, exaggerating previously overlooked details now obvious in their importance. I leaned too much against reassurances and danced around uncomfortable conflict, leaving my son stranded in a place of vulnerability painfully exposed. I could have done better. Instead, I modeled a quieter place of invisibility and acquiescence.
Motherhood has made me humble, more honest in my fallibility. On the best days it also makes me brave.
Worries and guilt are poor motivators, but hope is a contagion for possibility. Last night I conjured the little boy who used to shadow my days, creating a safe place to talk about his days without the markers of success that sometimes eclipse the emotions of our experiences; setting aside academics for an opportunity to bear witness to my son’s joy. Filling in the shape of his days.
With a luxury of time I took him to the place we used to walk before our footsteps were rushed by outside commitments. I let him choose our dinner and we lingered over the table in conversation rather than bundling our food more hurriedly into take out containers. We perused book shelves for an anticipated title and curled up in companionable silence to enjoy our new books. More importantly, I apologized for looking the other way while pushing him into expectations that weighted his enthusiasm for learning against others’ assumptions.
It was a small offering, an imperfect beginning, but it drew a smile that gave form to something we can both believe in.
October 21, 2014 § 6 Comments
There is a moment within a disagreement where communication comes unbuckled and you realize no one is driving, the wheels are broken and the horse is unbound. Words become reactionary and too often driven by factors tangentially related to the discontent we give voice. Underlying assumptions, old insecurities, irrational fears and distracted attentiveness are as problematic as tired bodies and tender emotions that clog our ears with defensive posturing and misinform our speech.
For years I clung to a utopian assumption that within a healthy relationship disagreements are polite, opinions are equal, there is no victor only validation. I craved a submissive discontent where I could avoid arguments for the sake of an emotional equilibrium. My children, similarly, burrow against disharmony. The sound of raised voices and the volley of disagreement wears against their faith in an impossible standard of love.
It is ironic then that in marriage and motherhood I have learned to wade into discontent with a headstrong indignation and stubborn persistence for forgiveness. Home is my safe place to error, to demand a voice with the same accountability I must apologize. I have become bolder, sometimes recklessly so; at times overlooking a loved one’s perspective in search of validation, missing opportunities to care for another while tending to my own emotions. Too often the idea I want so desperately to share becomes secondary to how I communicate; unbuckling the message with emotion.
I am writing today mindful of the mixed blessing and privileged burden of voice; giving thanks for the ability to disagree with love.
In our home love is messy, we error uncomfortably and with a consequence of care. Our disagreements underscore our fallibility as well as our convictions. Our apologies are greater than our words, they are a promise to love and respect one another with a wholeness that acknowledges the brokenness of imperfect individuals.
October 18, 2014 § 10 Comments
I did the thing I do not do. This morning I shared a message of advocacy in a social media forum that asks friends and acquaintances to exercise kindness and patience for children with special needs in anticipation of Halloween.
It felt natural to share and yet I was unsettled after doing so. I wonder if participating in this cycle of advocacy perpetuates a mentality of other that divides us too much by our differences rather than dwelling in a place of sameness?
I can see myself so clearly in a pattern of good intentions that sometimes undermines goals of acceptance with an emphasis on diversity. Allow me to lend a little background.
Years ago, when my son was first diagnosed with special needs, my husband and I gifted ourselves a year of privacy to process our emotions and educate ourselves before we moved into a position of public advocacy. The expectation of sharing his diagnosis was born of a responsibility to honor our son’s differences openly and honestly, removing the threat of stigma or shame.
Our vehicle for communication was a well-known national charity. This marked the only time we raised money to support a cause directly associated with our son’s needs. We gathered messages of well-wishes and generous contributions in an effort to offer our son a visual demonstration of love and support that he might feel empowered by the army of kindness that celebrated a community of ability.
We were no different before we acknowledged our son’s needs than we were after the fundraiser, in fact we were very much the same family we were before our son’s diagnosis.
That last sentence is perhaps the most important statement of advocacy I could make. Our lives, the action of living is greater than our labels, still we choose our words mindful of their ability to both empower and limit. We align ourselves with diagnoses openly while intentionally advocating privately in ways that allow our family to be greater than a singular cause.
So why the discomfort over my social media message? In identifying causes for kindness I am left wondering when kindness became a cause, something we attribute to tolerance over acceptance.
Is there a color for kindness?
October 16, 2014 § 6 Comments
More often than in my youth I find myself moving in a routine way, only to acquire an unwelcome tightness; small, inconsequential aches that slow my pace temporarily and draw my attention to uncomfortable, inconvenient limits. Each time these aches occur I find myself overwhelmed by a clarity of gratitude for my general good health with promises to better care for the body that will accompany me into old age; looking further than the present discomfort.
Similarly, I sometimes find myself caught in an unexpected unhappiness in the comfort of a relationship. Moments where I speak or act with such blindness of familiarity that I create a tenderness of insensitivity. Suddenly joy is bound by harm that restricts care in a moment of need with a crisis of selfishness. I scrape together words more mindful of their weight anxious to invite clarity and gratitude, care and consciousness to the language of love that informs compassion and commitment. Again, I look into the present more mindful of days to come.
Both aches are unseen, born of thoughtless, unexceptional gestures. I turn my body too quickly or speak without thought, creating a sudden awareness for a blind spot in my assumptions and a tenderness for care. Today I am thinking of little acts of love and patience that inform kindness in mind, body, and spirit for self and others. Days past and days to come.
October 15, 2014 § 8 Comments
This morning I woke with fragments of recent days stuck to my smile like sleep clouding my thoughts with remnants of dreams.
The profile of my children’s gaze as they watched theater performers, their brows pinched in thought.
The weight of my daughter’s cheek nestled against my shoulder as we slipped off our dress shoes and curled into a restaurant booth.
My husband and son, their shoulders bent in mischievous conspiracy as they nudged each other in restless silliness.
Red leafs peaking from beneath damp, earth colored foliage like freckles against the sidewalk.
Sparkling bubbles in a wine glass, pirouetting playfully in a tireless ballet of effervescence.
Tiny moments, so brief they could be lost in the space of a blink, clinging to my consciousness and reminding me of this.
October 9, 2014 § 4 Comments
I sometimes whisper a remembering I do not tempt with sound least I conjure ghosts I dare not wake. Trespassing thoughts that intrude upon the tender places of memory.
Like letters drafted, but never sent, I write these knowings in a language of silence. Beautiful pieces of a past scattered across the fullness of the present, pregnant with good fortune.
I wonder if our children know we are all storytellers made of love. Whispers on the wind.
October 8, 2014 § 4 Comments
This morning, paused at a familiar intersection, I noted the flashing red light of a broken stop light cautioning drivers to allow for cross traffic. The pattern of light communicated a singular message to drivers from each corner of the same place, changing the rhythm of expectation. As I replaced the car in front of me in waiting, I noted a green light abruptly challenging the current of assumptions, interrupting the slow progress of forced politeness with new permission. To my left a driver had yet to note the change and moved into harm’s way while behind me another driver impatiently advanced. Trapped between other’s confusion and my own caution, I thought of the serendipitous paths of so many strangers crossing in a perfect accident of intention each day.
I wonder, how many times have I missed the person exercising caution who needed a moment’s patience, or misjudged the anxious individual rushing across my path? How many times have I reacted to assumptions without first understanding a message of need or request for care? How many times have I moved blindly through routine, missing a change in the patterns around me?