One such epiphany occurred right in time for the new year. This one was a classic, brewing for almost two years, starting with my friend Holly. While chatting one day, Holly told me a story of a family friend who's child had a lost a finger. She mentioned how the mother always treated him so differently and allowed the missing finger to be an excuse for so many things the child should not do or could not do. She didn't preach, she just told the story and I said "uh huh" and we moved on. A few months later my friend Caroline sent me a video clip about a young man who was born without legs. The video told about how his life was joyful and purposeful. When asked why he was such a success story he cited that his parents never treated him like he was disabled and he grew up with the same expectations that would be placed on any child. Again, there was no additional message or suggestion, the video clip was just labeled, Something Inspiring.
Both of those stories floated around in my head for the last few years and came together three days before Christmas. Christmas music was playing and Max was off in a far corner of the family room engrossed in a game with his Transformers. Caroline had a friend over to play and I was chatting with her friend's mother in the kitchen. We were talking about physical therapy, since that is her profession, and I was explaining about Max's early visits with a PT when we began to realize his development was off. I was saying "He couldn't squat or jump, he couldn't go upstairs, etc." Then out of no where we hear a small voice from across the room. "But Mommy, I can go up stairs now."
I felt a little chill. Max was listening. I should know better, Max is ALWAYS listening. All of a sudden I realized for the past few years Max has heard over and over about all the things he can't do. The story and the video collided. What was I doing?! Later that night Ray and I talked about it. I was feeling very down, the "mother guilt" dump truck had arrived. We agreed that the way we talk about Max, especially when he can hear us, needs to change. When I say we I really mean me. The next day I started. "You are so strong Max!" "You have great balance!" "Max you are very fast." These were not lies or false praise. Compared to most Glut 1 DS kids, Max is strong, with excellent balance and also very fast. The guilt dump truck stayed parked for a few days as I watched a rapid change in Max. The more I said these things, the more he lived up to them. He started doing some of his PT exercises with out being asked. He initiated games, like riding on my back, that require a lot of balance. He walked the entire lower level of Ikea! His smile was brighter and I could see visible pride and confidence in my child! Wow....
For so long I have focused on what Max can not do and Max knew it. He would often forgo a cart and walk in a store with my mother or with Ray. He has always chosen to ride in a cart when in a store with me. Max was meeting my expectations, the ones that I put on him as a sick and weak child. What is so very startling is how quickly he seems to be changing under my new expectations and praise. It is pretty fabulous to watch!
...now if only I had figured this out when my mother must have said something ...
The moral of this story is: don't be afraid to speak up and try to help a friend. They may not seem like they are listening, but they are, how ironic, just like Max is always listening! It may take a while, but you never know when you will say something that will make a difference.
Thank you dear friends and thank you to all the other friends and family who have gently tried to guide me over the years, I was listening.