Tracey, “Only as special as necessary – I treated both my sons no differently. Michael’s cleft palette was, and is, just a part of who he is. He gets no special treatment from us because of it, definitely no feeling sorry for yourself. It is just a part of our family. Trips to doctor appointments and surgeries are something we do as a family, no questions. If one got a treat for having to stay in the hospital, well the other got one too for having to come with him.” Tip #3
I appreciate Tracey’s tip #3, “only as special as necessary.” Our son did not get his “special” status until age 16. We felt it was extra important to keep all things the same, and all expectation high.
Michael was expected to do his homework, even though he couldn’t lift his arm to write, or hold a book to read. We read to him and scribed for him, but only because he could not. My philosophy remained steady. I would help in areas only if he could not do for himself, both before and after his injury.
Following Michael’s accident, this practice did become more difficult. Helping him required much consideration. There were many things I wanted to do for him; things he could do, but now took longer or required heightened effort. Once simple tasks, now were labour intensive.
I remember for the first time watching Michael butter his bread, once mindless and automatic, now a challenge. Watching this required my “Meryl-Streep-Mother-Mode,” every bit of it! I secretly watched as he handled the knife and spread the butter. I choked back my tears of torture! I remember my efforts to conceal my sadness, the fact I was watching, and the fact I was breaking.
I sat on my hands, resisted the urge, and mustered shards of gratitude. He was able to do the task, even though it now looked different, difficult. The look on his face, was worth my epic display of self-restraint! I could see he was proud.
Michael of course knew buttering his bread was different. He knew better than I! It was harder, requiring concentration, patience, and time. He knew it would get better, and he knew he OWNED that bread, that butter, and that knife!
I remember in the moment, had I have taken that task away from him, he would have taken longer to realize his capability! He was now one step closer to getting better at the task. He knew he could do it, which he wouldn’t have known had I jumped in.
Tracey had to learn this delicate dance much sooner than I. It is so vitally important not to rob our kids of self-mastery, whether they have “special” or “normal” circumstances! This practice is not for the weak of heart!
I echo Tracey’s point, “Only as special as necessary.” I also add, “Sit on your hands if you must!”
Tracey’s boys have experienced much of self-mastery! I look forward to watching their wonderful lives unfold!