Today was a hard day being a mom. Both “typical” and “special”. It started out good enough, the boys and I woke up, had breakfast, played cars, watched a cartoon… then we got ready to walk over to a neighbours for a playdate.
We live in an amazing 20+ home crescent which houses 45+ kids, and their parents. There’s a wide range of ages, but a relatively large portion is that of preschoolers, very close in age to my boys. One of the fellow moms decided to host a ladies and tots coffee/playdate, so that we could all chat in one room, as opposed to at the end of our driveways.
I was excited to have a casual morning out with friends, but I also knew there were things I’d have to be on watch for with Theo. When you have a child with developmental delay or special needs - there are often certain activities that are either too hard or too frustrating for them to do. Although he has come a very long way from initial deficits caused by his in utero stroke (you can read that story here), he is still constantly working on balance, strength, and verbalization. All of which can be necessary when playing with a bunch of other kids!
Theo, Beckett, and I headed over to play. There were about 10 other toddlers busy with toys up and downstairs. I watched the boys a little while, saw that they were comfortably playing and decided to get some coffee and enjoy myself. Theo was very interested in a racetrack they were building, but I had to keep an eye on him because he was close to the stairwell. He actually does very well on stairs, but doesn't do so well with getting bumped on the stairs, and with so many kids, I knew to watch.
I was relaxed, sipping coffee, enjoying the treats the other moms had baked when I thought I heard a faint cry. Theo had made his way downstairs with an older kid a few minutes before, but when I looked down the stairwell he was on his way up. His head was down and he was coming up slowly. The older kid appeared behind him and said to me, “they were making fun of him, and pushing him down”. At that moment, Theo looked at me and I saw his flushed red face, fat tears, and whimpering mouth. It was not the sad face of an ‘owie’ but rather that of hurt feelings. My heart shattered, tears filled my eyes instantly, and mommy protector kicked in full force. I scooped him up, which made both of us even more tender. Theo burrowed into my chest crying harder, while my tears welled up faster.
What I've Learnt
Thankfully, these feelings and experiences are rare these days. The last time I can remember aching so sadly for my boy was nearly 2 years ago, as I watched him struggle to enjoy the playground, while other children much younger than him ran around in circles giggling. I left the park that day sick to my stomach worried about all the obstacles Theo would have to face and how I would manage to help him cope. It was also the last time I said out loud that I wish the stroke had never happened. I felt powerless and I knew that attitude was never going to help Theo.
Since that day 2 years ago, my whole world is different, and I am a very changed mother. Taking the Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement training and immersing myself in it’s flexible beliefs has literally touched every aspect of my life. I have truly stopped feeling sorry for him (and myself), and I have embraced the (at times) difficult journey our family is on. My soul is unbelievably at peace with his diagnosis 99% of the day. This absolutely doesn't mean that I am not bothered by tougher days or that I don’t wish that our road could be just a little easier… but it does mean that I do not let those feelings overtake me. ABMNM encourages you to focus on what your child CAN do and celebrate that, rather than constantly seeing your child with problems that need fixing. This goes for all children - not just the ones that have an obvious issue or diagnosis. The way I raise my older son has changed drastically too, and I am beyond grateful for the eye opening that this experience has given me.
I’m sure parents are never excited to experience their child get teased or bullied, but I have to wonder if there is a different pang when it is a special child. What is important, no matter what child, is our reaction as parents and how our children learn to react to these occurrences in the future. One of my biggest take aways from my ABMNM training is how to slow down and stop being so reactive. This also keeps me from making an early judgement (or any). This simple practice has COMPLETELY 180’d the way I parent… when I get it right. Obviously, I didn’t quite get it right at the coffee date, but I allow myself a little grace now and again.
As Theo and I made our way into the group of ladies, I held back my tears. The mother of the child who had pushed him, walked over with her child in tow. She was apologetic, and was telling the child to say sorry as well. I managed to squeak out asking Theo if he was okay now, and in a strong voice, he clearly said “yeah”. I was so proud of my little guy in that moment. He settled completely soon after, and I set him up at my feet with some colouring. I then snuck off to the bathroom as fast as I could. I allowed myself to let out the tears and sobs that I’d held back, I quickly cursed Theo’s damn stroke, and then I dried my eyes and rejoined the group. Theo and I managed to enjoy the last half hour, but I left with a heavy heart.
They Are More Alike Than They Are Different
Thankfully, I was reminded a little later that parents with typical children have bad days too. After lunch, Beckett and I went to see the dentist because of a ‘spot’ I had recently noted in his mouth while brushing. As he lay back in that foreign pleather chair, feeling a little like a trapped animal, he glanced over, and I could see my little guy was scared. My mommy heart once again hurt. No matter what, there are things I just can't protect any of my kids from experiencing. It was a somber reminder that as parents we can try as hard as possible to swerve our kids out of ‘harm’s way’, but that it’s impossible. Rather, I need to focus my attention and intention on showing them appropriate ways of how to cope with the hard situations.
Some serious resolutions were made. Most importantly, my refocus on how to pause and wait before reacting in certain situations. These little eyes are always watching and learning, and how I behave is a direct instruction on how I expect them to behave. Theo actually seemed to recover quicker than I (and probably with less scarring) at the mornings incident. Beckett allowed himself to be nervous, asked me for a little support, but was so proud of himself after he made it through the appointment without fussing. I once again, felt blessed beyond compare that I get this special life with these very special kiddos.