3/03/2013

What I Want My Kids to Know

For this month's Reach for a Difference newsletter, I wrote the following piece:


Bobby,

You were an unplanned for, unexpected gift and were born 9 days before your dad's and my first anniversary. The pregnancy was hard, the delivery even harder, and the first week of your life scary since I ended back up in the hospital with an infection. I missed you so that it's no surprise that I was reluctant to ever put you down, and until you grew too big at age 7 to carry on my hip, that is exactly what I did: carry you close to my body.

We were insulated from realizing you were different than other babies; you were our first, we didn't get out much, and you were the first grandchild. We knew you weren't an easy baby, but you were so loved that we didn't mind keeping you in our arms all the time.

By the time you were four, though, we were forced to realize you were, in fact, very different, and the labeling attempts began; the therapies began, and of course, the fear began. The professionals we consulted to get help for you did far more harm than good, and we learned a healthy distrust of psychologists, enough so that when you were much older I went back to school to get my master's in it so I could come to battle for you and your sisters fully armed.

It's weird how you were just Bobby before doctors, teachers, therapists began to tell us you were ODD, ADD, bipolar, or PDD and then finally autistic. I'm just grateful that it didn't take us long to go back to thinking of you as just Bobby again. I'm beyond grateful that when I forget for a moment, like I must each year when it's paperwork time, that you remind me again that you are you: Bobby, and that this is good and enough.

You taught me patience. I will always be in your debt for that and for making me the teacher I am today. You taught me that we all learn at our own pace, in our own time and that one's worth and value were separate from some arbitrary number on a piece of paper. That's perhaps made me a more lenient college instructor than most, but I think that's a good thing: I realized that as long as goals were met by the end of the course that I could and can tailor assignment due dates and teaching methods to specific student needs. 

You also taught me that 18 is just a number, that growth and development don't cease at the arbitrary threshhold of adulthood. You taught me to never close the door on you and your sisters.

Lily, 

You came when we had given up hope of having another child of our own. And then you came five weeks too early and terrified us as we raced two hours to the hospital you were taken to by ambulance, so that you could be intubated and given surfactant replacement therapy. For nine days, you stayed in the NICU and we prayed and cried and worried. And then we brought you home, this tiny little thing. And now look at you. You are sparkly, loud, vibrant, giggly, and so smart. You spend hours drawing with Rosie, making your own paper dolls. You love Spongebob, anime, Futurama and the Cat Warriors books. You delight in idioms and trying to work them out. And you delight in correcting things that are incorrect. You would make a hell of an English teacher, and boy would your students perfect grammar. You'd make them. You have not let your issues stop you or hold you back and I love that you are still intent on skipping sixth grade and moving right on to college because even though it will be harder, at least you get to choose what you take. Smart doesn't even begin to cover who you are. You are Lily.

Rosie, 

You are, my sweet flower, the first baby your daddy and I ever planned on having.  We were figuring it would take some time, but no, you surprised us and nine months after we started trying to have a third, we were having you.

You are my wide-eyed baby, my dreamy child with a faraway look. You are my mischief maker and my surprise. You are sweet and sarcasctic at the same time and bluntly honest. You will suffer no fools ever. You are on the outskirts so much of the time out there in the world, the quiet onlooker, soaking everything in and forgetting nothing. You are my most obviously affected child, with stims that often draw attention and with sensory issues that impact your ability to interact with the world. You hate loud noises, but have learned to advocate for yourself at school out of necessity. I'm so proud that you found your voice and started using it. 

All three of you have made my life so much richer than I could have ever imagined. You fill me with equal parts joy and laughter and bemusement, a combination I have learned to embrace; even that little frisson of fear that underlies it all. 

Will the world see all three of you as the wonderful, incredible young people you are? We've been blessed that each of you has found your niche, found people who love you, look out for you and delight in you. 

You are generous people, kind and helpful. You hate injustice of any kind and are ready to go to battle over those injustices. You have a fierce sense of right and wrong, and you will and do stand up and speak up. I am honored to be there with you, watching and loving you. 

You will change the world. You already do.

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