Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Learning Something that's Really Difficult

When was the last time you really gave yourself to learning something that was really, really difficult?  I am 43 years old and I am finding that I have very little capacity to learn something new at this point in my life.  I have a friend in her late 30's who is taking piano lessons for the first time in her life.  Another friend who is learning how to swim.  I have numerous mom friends who are discovering a new found drive to run marathons or tri-athalons (and posting the pics on Facebook).   I'm quite impressed with all of them.  I had a brief thought that I would learn how to knit and teach my girls.  This idea was almost immediately abandoned with one glance at my daily to do list.

Learning something new can be really hard.  This is especially true if you are not particularly motivated to learn it. Or if you are a person who, like many autistic individuals, has a difficult time being motivated by much in the first place.

The number one task that Josh needs to learn right now is to wipe after he goes to the bathroom.  At 10 years old, Josh is ALMOST done with toilet training.  It's been 8 long years of adventures in potty training and my son has come a long way.  He has not had an accident in almost two years.  He takes himself to the bathroom, even if it's in the middle of the night.  The only problem is that he has not mastered wiping.  If and when it's up to him (and if he's not being supervised) he's quite content to poo then just pull up his pants and just move on with his day.  His mom is not so happy with this.

With the help of his home therapists, we are working on a strategy for mastering wiping.  The first step is to teach the process of wiping in general.  Thus, we have been practicing putting peanut butter or chocolate sauce or toothpaste on his arm then wiping it off with a toddler wipe.  We ask him to look at the wipe and answer the question, "Is it dirty or clean?"  On a good day, he can get it right about 75% of the time.  On a bad day, he does not care one bit and seems greatly annoyed that we are asking him to engage with this inane task so he just echo's whichever option was given to him second.  ("Is it dirty or clean?"  "Clean."  "Is it clean or dirty?"  "Dirty.")  On a very bad day, Josh resorts to crying and head hitting which usually results in peanut butter, chocolate or toothpaste in his hair.

Everything that Josh learns how to do for himself takes about 5 to 10 to 100 times longer than your typical person.  Using a fork, putting on a t-shirt, putting on his own seatbelt; all of these things have taken an unbelievable amount of time and coaching to master.  However, in so many of these things, ardent practice and great determination have yielded success.  Sometimes I can't believe how much he HAS learned to do for himself!

Yet with every challenge, I can feel like "this one is going to be impossible".  It's just so darn messy to make Josh keep working on wiping himself.  His visual impairment, low motor abilities, and lack of motivation results in a "poop getting everywhere" scene almost every time.  It's incredibly un-fun. Thus, it's so easy to take the short cut and just do it for him "just this once".  Yet I know that we are on a long journey and we must prevail.  I can't be wiping Josh's butt for him when he's 30.  This lesson, tough as it is, must be taught and the skill must be mastered.  I am praying for the determination, endurance and discipline that we need to help him to learn this really difficult thing.

What are the things in your life that are really difficult for you to learn?  Where do you experience the  need for determination, endurance, and discipline?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Joshua and His Dad

Well, the summer is over and the kids are back in school.  As evidenced by my lack of blogposts all summer long, it's been a full one.  New programs, new issues, new people, new therapists and new routines and a new school for Josh were all introduced this summer.  And I managed all of it.  On top of that, Josh had surgery for his obstructive sleep apnea which came with some amount of complications regarding his normal meds.  Now that the summer is over, I am realizing how much my parenting is about getting stuff done.  I'm a doer and there is always a lot to do for Josh.

Josh's relationship with his dad is different.  Alex had the gift of being able to "be" with his kids.  Maybe it's because he's a more "in the present" kind of person rather than a "plan for the future" type like I am.  Maybe it's because he had to spend so much time comforting and snuggling with Josh while I was caring for the girls when they were babies.  This sometimes drives me crazy when they are just laying on each other or wrestling when there are dishes to be done, teeth to be brushed, and other things on my list of things that should be getting done.

However, I'm glad that Josh, Hope and Anna has a father who is very present to them.  Many people in my husband's profession cut corners on spending quality time with their kids.  I know, deep in my heart, that Alex will not do that.  Even in the busy seasons, he makes time to just be with his kids.  I am more likely to skimp on being present to the kids than Alex is.  Just today, Hope asked me to play Connect Four with her and it took every ounce of will that I had to be able to turn from my chaotic kitchen and say "Uh, yeah, okaaaay. . ."

I love these pictures of Alex and Josh just being together.  Even if they are not having a deep conversation, I think that something profound happens when father and child can enjoy quality time in each other's presence.  Enveloped in the safety of sure love, there is an exchange of joy and peace.  This transcends conversation or information exchange.  Nothing is "getting done" but plenty is happening.  I want more of that in my life and in my parenting.