Clann

Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.~ David Ogden Stiers

Over the last few days, I’ve seen multiple stories in the media about families. A woman who has 15 kids now is demanding that someone, not her, take responsibility for them. A 5-year-old girl has been missing for two years and her family no longer mourns her. A young man was killed in a drive by shooting a year ago and his mother is still passing out flyers asking for anyone with information to come forward. A teenaged mother threw her newborn over a fence so her parents wouldn’t find out she had been pregnant. All this is swirling around my head, begging me to ask how did we as a community reach this crazy place?

I admit I was raised under rather traditional rules. My parents are immigrants (hence the Gaelic title of this entry) and raised us how they were raised. Even in the 70s, my childhood friends would comment on how weird we were. We ate dinner together almost every night. My parents were present at our activities. They were involved in our schools and communities. Discipline came swift and hard to violations of the house rules. My friends laughed at my curfews, since they had none. They laughed at the boundaries of my life, daring me to bike further from home in defiance of the rules. I remember believing that my mother was omniscient as I was always called out on those transgressions. Turns out she just knew someone in every part of my life who would call her and tell her I was misbehaving.

I look at all the “family” things that make the news and wonder how anyone could stop missing their child. How anyone could just give up. How anyone could abandon a child. The families that keep fighting are becoming less noticeable. The only place I saw news of Joe Bell being mowed over in Utah while on his walk against bullying was on social media. The family of a New York teen with Autism is raising money to offer a reward for the safe return of their son who wandered away from school almost two weeks ago, also on social media. A Florida family is trying to get the word out about concussions┬ábecause their child died after a football collision, again on social media. Broadcast media is still going with “if it bleeds, it leads” and has no interest in sharing these stories.

I don’t think I will ever understand parents who have such callous disregard for their children. I hope my three children know that the village that raised them will welcome them back anytime. I’m pleased that they already seek to find the good in people and to work towards improving their communities. Because that’s what it’s about. Accepting responsibility, building community, strengthening relationships and knowing that your family has your back.

And just in case you missed it in previous posts, family is not defined by blood. Surely that is one of the first things most of us experience as children. But as we grow older, family becomes those we choose to allow into our lives. If each of us refused to leave others behind, I think humanity just might have a chance.

A Letter to My Son

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Twenty years ago, I was a young, scared parent who had a 10 month old and found out another child was on the way. Those remaining eight months were stressful. I was sick, we moved, my husband started a new job which created the possibility of a deployment and my unborn boy was thought to be at risk for birthing complications. Yes, we knew from the multiple ultrasounds that our baby was a boy. The only easy part about this time was picking out a name.

My son arrived 19 years ago today. It was a messy delivery, ending up in an emergency C-section to deliver a baby that weighed 11 pounds, 15.6 ounces. We round it up to 12 pounds for storytelling purposes. My husband had to go to the store and buy diapers because the nursery didn’t have any to fit him.

To my It-Man:

You came into this world ready to tackle anything, literally. Doctors asked if we were ready to sign you up for a football team. You blew all the growth charts out of the water. Running around at 10 months. Charming everyone with your smile. Being taller than your sister and loving it. When you grew taller than me, you were so proud!

We faced challenges over the last 19 years, but I have seen how those challenges shaped you as a young man. I wouldn’t trade one minute of our past. Those bumps just made our lives more interesting. Sometimes, I think other parents could learn a lot from our experience. Our path was definitely not the well-travelled road that so many of your peers followed.

I hope you remember all the people who helped you become the man you are now. The camping trips, the reunions, Boy Scouts, Robotics, teachers and friends that helped guide you along the way and most of all, your family. There was an entire village that helped you reach this point. I’ve forgotten some of the names, but I’m truly grateful for their presence in your life.

As you celebrate this weekend, keep all of us with you. Look to the future, but never forget the past. It’s time for you to try out those wings we gave you a few years ago. Your tree is firmly rooted in the ground, but your path is now yours to forge. I know you can find your way back if you want or need to. Soar…take in your surroundings…enjoy the journey. Find your own path, knowing your village is extremely proud of you.

Happy birthday, It-Man.

Pay It Forward

Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.~ Soren Kierkegaard

I was recently part of a discussion about parenting children with special needs. One person basically came right out and said there was no way I could understand a child with Autism because I’m “just” a mother. Another commented that because my children aren’t “severely” disabled, I can’t understand what other parents are going through. I’ve already written about how I feel when people start playing the disability olympics. I struggle so much with wanting to tell people that every day is a new day and then being shot down as overly optimistic.

I am optimistic when it comes to children. They represent new opportunities for everyone. Just as each adult brings a new thread to the tapestry of life, so do our children. If you think about it, we were all children once. We learned, struggled and overcame obstacles. We became reflections of our upbringings.

It is those upbringings that parents are responsible for. It’s tough being a parent. Despite all the parenting advice out there, each kid is unique and doesn’t fit “perfectly.” I’ve had friends whose babies started sleeping through the night within weeks of birth. Other parents have had to cope with colic for over a year. Consequently, we’ve all learned to adapt to our children’s needs in order to keep our lives running more or less smoothly.

My knowledge of children with disabilities comes from both raising Autistic children, working with children who have significant disabilities in the school setting and providing advocacy assistance for families whose children have a variety of disabilities. I do not profess to have all the answers. But, I can offer advice from a variety of perspectives. The first piece of advice I always offer is that tomorrow is another day.

I have been following another blogger as her toddler with Autism grows. When I first started reading that blog, I smiled a knowing smile to myself. The frustration and love for her child were evident in her writing. Yet, I knew she had many days of discovery in her future. Life would change, sometimes for the good and sometimes for worse. She is now blogging about how cool it is to watch her child start to do tasks that her friend’s kids did a year ago. I wanted to say “I told you it would be okay” so many times, yet did not feel it was my place.

My advice to all adults out there, parents or otherwise, is to be patient. Be patient with yourselves. Be patient with your children. Be patient with the kids you have in your life. Know that parents are trying to figure out how to be parents. Don’t judge, even if your kids share a disability diagnosis. Be kind. Remember that you’re a role model for those around you. You don’t have to be perfect, just patient.

Voyages

Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.~ Phyllis Diller

Parenting. The final frontier. Bravely going where no one has gone before. Well, sort of. We’ve all had parental figures in our lives. Yet, each one of us has some quirky little things that others do not. In others words, parenting is a journey we make with others, on parallel and occasionally intersecting paths.

I have 3 biological children in my life in addition to scores of others that have been passed through my hands as a teacher, Scout leader and child advocate. A couple of days ago, I was in a conversation with my youngest about the benefits of being the youngest. My point was, I made all of my parenting mistakes on her siblings. Her point was, I still make far too many mistakes.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Not to mention being reminded of it daily now by my youngest. I found out today that I hadn’t taught my son how to address an envelope. My oldest is still trying to figure out how to put together “outfits” of a professional style. And my youngest told me yesterday that her life would be so much easier if I’d just get a clue. Ah, yes, the grand times of parenting. Yet, it is strangely fulfilling to hear them whine and realize that if that’s all I did “wrong,” I’m pretty darn lucky.

This blog is a short one on purpose. I have more mistakes to go make…..