25 May 2012 1 Comment
19 Mar 2012 Leave a comment
A while back I joined a group in my area called “The Happiness Project.” In one of their email newsletters, they referenced an article on sisters and happiness: Why Sisterly Chats Make People Happier
I thought the article was really interesting, and it started me thinking about my little girl and her relationship with her brother and all the intricacies of their sibling situation. The article was focused on adult relationships, but of course my mind kept going back to language and kid conversation and the difference between Hannie’s communication and Alex’s communication.
Last week Aubrey and I visited Alex and took him out for a round of mini-golf. On the car ride there, I babbled and commented and babbled on– as I usually do. Alex sat quietly, watching the road (he is so big he can sit in the front seat now, believe it or not!) and listening. At one point I paused and said:
“Moms talk a lot, don’t they?”
which elicited both a smile from Alex and a laugh of agreement from Aubrey in the backseat.
Moms do talk a lot. Apparently, this starts when we’re kids. And if we’re sisters, the talking– just the stream of everyday conversation– can be reassuring and helpful to our siblings because of more than just the content of the words. The routine chatting, describing, talking about the weather, so to speak, in itself can create connection. Maybe it’s not the words exactly, but the word-behind-the-words or the feeling of “sharing life together” we get when someone talks from their own perspective about what’s going on out there in the world.
I mean, c’mon– that’s the reason you read my blog, right?
I like to think that Hannah’s little conversations, the sound of her voice, her questions, the way she says “I love you” will be important to her brother as they grow up not just because of what she says, but because the sisterly babble will remind Alex of the lifelong connection they’ll always share.
What do you think?
14 Feb 2012 4 Comments
Today, I’m pleased to share Autism Home Rescue’s first-ever guest post from Caroline McGraw! Caroline is a would-be childhood paleontologist who digs for treasure in people. Her younger brother, Willie, has autism, and she writes about finding meaning in the most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear.
It takes a great deal of courage to say, as Cathy did, “My child is the biter.”
It’s hard when your brother is the biter (and the bruiser, the head-banger, the one who punches holes through walls). It’s hard when you’re living next door to him, and you don’t feel safe enough to fall asleep at night.
But harder still is the feeling of disconnection, the fear that the person you once knew is gone forever. That, more than the cuts and bruises, triggers anger. Anger that wells up inside you and threatens to explode. If you’re like me, you never thought you could feel such anger.
And you never thought you’d feel such paradoxical desires; one moment, you’re wishing that this violent person would disappear, and then next, you’re thinking that you’d do whatever it takes if only it would offer that person some comfort, some respite from their self-injurious and other-injurious behavior. You want to give up hope … and you want to believe that love can overcome all obstacles.
In my first book, Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive), I share a story that encapsulates that paradox:
“Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, I got so angry with my brother Willie (and his erratic, sometimes- violent behavior) that I smashed an antique guitar to smithereens. (If it helps, it was an old, ratty guitar, not a collector’s item.) This guitar had been given to my brother by my grandparents. After a particularly difficult evening at home, I walked upstairs, saw the guitar and simply started smashing it against Willie’s wooden bed- frame. I was so, so angry. I so, so badly wanted him to stop acting crazy. I wanted him to change back into the brother I knew.
After, I felt bewildered, astonished…and relieved. While the wood was splintering and the strings were snapping, I’d realized … I could not change him. I could not change my parent’s decisions. I was powerless to change any of those things, but I’d done something that I needed to do. I’d released some anger that I needed to release.
I’d stopped fixating on what I wanted to change about him and started letting myself feel what I felt.
Ironically, this was the first moment in ages at which I could feel empathy for my brother, who had so much rage inside of him. It was small, but it was a beginning. Amidst the shards of a broken guitar, I took my first step on the road to loving my brother as he was, not as I wished he would be. ”
I’ve walked much farther on my journey since then; I’ve built a stronger relationship with my brother and with many other remarkable, differently-abled adults. And in the process, I’ve come to see that the beautiful thing about acknowledging hard truths is that the telling can set you free. When you say, “My child is the biter,” or, “My brother is the violent teenager who got kicked out of school, the one who makes me so mad I actually smashed a musical instrument to pieces,” you’re acknowledging the difficulty and struggle and pain, but you’re still putting your relationship first. Even in your darkest hour, you’re still saying, “My child,” and “My brother.”
Whether you’ve thought consciously about it or not, you’re communicating that the person you care for is more than their behavior, more than their current difficulties. You’re saying that your love for that person is bigger than whatever challenge you’re facing together.
Some days, it hurts to believe it. And other days, it feels like the only thing worth holding on to. Regardless of what kind of day today is for you, know that you are not alone, and that your care of one person has more power than you can ever know.
To read the rest of Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive), visit Caroline at A Wish Come Clear; the 60+ page guide for caregivers is free to all who elect to receive posts via email.
04 Feb 2012 Leave a comment
I have a dragon here and I’m not afraid to use it! I’m a donkey on the edge!!
~Donkey in “Shrek”
13 Jan 2012 6 Comments
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
~ Albert Einstein
About a week ago I saw this quote for the first time. It struck me in such a profound way that an entire expanded blog post has been wandering around in my head since then, unpacking & rearranging & dissecting & analyzing & marveling at these words.
A fish. With a tree. Climbing, not climbing. Pondering the situation. Wondering maybe why the heck someone would expect it to climb? Maybe a slightly annoyed fish waiting for someone to recognize its fins are for swimming. Like, duh! … Or maybe a fish not really caring about trees, just being a fish and being content. Not caring if someone else judged its ability at all, as long as it got the water it needed to live. You know what I mean?
Or are you staring at the computer screen with your mouth hanging open, thinking maybe I’ve completely lost my mind? Well, that would be okay too. It’s all good, really it is. See, it comes right back to the beauty of that quote in the first place:
We judge because our minds are constantly trying to make sense of our world. Einstein’s quote is perfect to me because it clearly illustrates how ridiculous and imperfect our judgements of others really are, and then gives a gentle reminder of our silliness and sends us back out into the world to look at others through a new lens.
Can you see it?
I smile as I write this because I can see it, and I can feel it. And just being able to do that brings a whole universe closer to me somehow. I believe there’s a higher power who created the world, and I believe that everyone is special and important, every living thing has its place, things happen for a reason, and that we have lessons to learn in life. Seeing that fish, imagining that tree, makes me realize the immensity of ALL of this. I’m only one part, and me with my own judgements and ways of seeing the world…. well, maybe I have a lot more to learn, too.
Are you with me? So to take this quote one step further into my life…
My son is a fish. He can swim like nobody’s business. He loves the trees– all the typical stuff– but he’s not good at a lot of it. For years I thought I’d find the “cure” that would change his fins to feet, would make him be able to survive without water, so that he could live in the trees with his little sister (whom I’ve always affectionately referred to as my “monkey”) and be happy. Then I realized the key to everything, the key to really being a good mother (in my humble opinion) was to recognize his fishy-ness, to get him what he innately needs for the way he was created to live. So that’s what I’ve tried to do.
But about a week ago, Albert Einstein reminded me that I missed another important part:
If in my world of trees, I had missed an obvious point entirely about the abilities of my little fish and about my own judgements of others, then what else could I learn from a fish? What else was I missing about what fish *can* do?
As often happens in my life, an answer to these silent questions swirling around in my curious brain came to me in a truly beautiful and touching way. Alex’s former ABA teacher Steph (of “Tigger Takes a Swim“) emailed me out of the blue yesterday:
“I’ve been thinking about Alex a lot lately… I just started doing consulting work and I’ve been going back over my years of doing therapy [with kids] and I keep coming back to him. … I don’t think [that’s] because of what and how we taught him during his [early intervention] days, but more about what he taught us and reminded us. …
“Alex taught me that answers aren’t always in books. He taught me that patience and love get you a lot further than sitting at a table and doing things by the rules. He taught me that sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious and search for the deeper meaning… And even after searching if you still can’t find something, then just act goofy and laugh because laughter makes everything okay, at least for a bit.
I owe you a much needed thank you for allowing me to be a part of his life and learn from him. I honestly believe it has taught me to be the best I can be in my job and that when A and B don’t add up, then maybe they aren’t supposed to so just move along! I hope beyond hope that he is doing well in his new environment and learns all he can and continues to teach and inspire those around him.”
It seems my beautiful boy fish is already doing much more than I had expected — he is making impressions, teaching lessons, causing people to pause & reflect & remember. And because of him, lives of other little fish have been and will continue to be changed for the better.
Thanks, Steph, for showing me the deeper meaning of my new favorite quote. And thanks Alex, as always, for swimming to your own beat.
10 Dec 2011 4 Comments
She’s still at it folks! Through good times and bad, my little Hannie keeps me laughing and I am so grateful. If you missed the original Hannah-isms, read about my beautiful daughter and her amazing sense of humor here.
Disclaimer: Anything goes when it comes to Hannah’s views on the world. I suggest you put down your beverages now, before you end up laughing so hard you inhale them.
And now for your reading pleasure:
6 year-old on pets & family dynamics: “Ok Mom pretend you have a pet monkey. Like I’m a monkey. And Alex is not a monkey, he’s just a regular brother who has autism. And he doesn’t like dogs & I don’t either cuz dogs are scary for monkeys… oh! & I can sing and do exercises in the bathtub…”
Six year-old on really important things: Hannah: “Mommy, I am sooo sad. Do you see how sad I am? (makes pouty face) I am just. so. sad. because… (insert dramatic hand gesture here) .. I wish the smurfs were real. I mean, I am soo into smurfs now. I like them more than Ariel. And I wish they were real, and they could come into our house, and I could play with them, and…” (Mommy’s eyes glaze over… my god, what have we done?…)
Six year-old on biking: (Hannah, big grin in store) “I want the cool Barbie bike!!” (5 mins later) “This helmet is awesome, look at me!” (20 mins later) “When can I ride it??” (30 mins later) “Hurry up, get it out of the car, I want to go biking!” (5 mins later) “I am NOT riding that thing!” (2 mins later) “I didn’t say I wanted to RIDE it, but you CAN’T take it back!!” (10 mins & several deep breaths by mom later) “I know how to get on by myself!” (10 seconds later) “DON’T let go of me!” (30 seconds later) “I don’t care if it has training wheels, keep holding ON!” (10 mins later) “Look at me Mom! I’ll race ya!” (20 mins later, back to the big grin) “Can you BELIEVE I rode the whole way myself??”
(Hannah, spontaneously from the backseat of the car) “Mom, I smurfin’ LOVE you!” (Me, eyeing my kid in the rearview mirror, pausing to consider her inflection) “I, uh, smurfin’ love you too baby.”
(Hannah, 5 minutes later) “Mom, I f*#&in’ LOVE you!”
(Hannah walks in wearing a pink Eagles baseball cap with a purple pen clipped to the brim) “Ok Mom, when Aubrey comes over I wanna ask her about this. Am I off? Am I like way off? Am I super off? Did I hit the bullseye? Am I on? Did I get it right? Am I totally on? Or am I SUPER on?”
Dinner by Hannah: ♥ Salad greens with multi-seed rice cracker crumbs & raisins; Gluten-free mac & cheese with a smattering of ketchup mixed in, served cold; Hand-prepared green beans; Finely shredded Mexican cheese in a circle; Water service; Mint Hershey kiss ♥ “Mom, I read all the boxes, everything said gluten-free!” ♥ “I snapped all the beans myself!” ♥ “You get dessert right on the plate!” ♥ (and my personal fav) “Wanna know how I got those glasses down from the highest shelf??”
(Late for the first-grade breakfast) Hannah: “Mommy, do you know what a truant officer is?” Me: “Um, I think so. Don’t they catch people when they’re late to school?” Hannah: “No. A truant officer finds all the kids who are out having fun & puts them back in school where they belong.” (long silence) Me: “So Hannah, who’s the one who catches the late people? Cuz that’s who we gotta watch out for.” Hannah: “That would be an *adult* truant officer.” (knuckle bump)
Six year-old on importance of sleep: “If we sleep slow, we get more rest. If we get more rest, we have more energy. If we have more energy, we do more work. If we do more work, we get more money. If we get more money, we can buy more things.”
“Ok *enough* with the tiny hiney jokes. That’s it Mom. Enough.”
Six year-old re-enactments: Apparently we had a “situation” with the smurfs last night. Fortunately Barbie, Ken & their trusty companion were on the case with a butterfly net.