Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One in Two Million

I almost made it to the inauguration yesterday, but the Hobbit woke up with a fever and so the Wizard and the Elf went by themselves. We live about 8 miles almost due west of the Lincoln Memorial, so I offered to drive them to one of the bridges they would have to cross on foot on account of all the closed roads. The drive towards the city was eerie. Normally this is a very busy commuter route, but on this day, there were precious few cars. Instead, groups of people, all walking silently in the same direction. The two adventurers hopped out of the car by a closed exit ramp and disappeared behind a bush on the embankment. The Hobbit and I drove home and turned on the television. At times the phone would ring and we'd get an update from our very excited family:

"Mommy, I'm in a sea of people!!! And I can't see a thing!"

"Hi Hon, the Elf is completely overwhelmed, so we're making our way back now."

They had staked out a spot near the Washington Monument, from where they watched the proceedings on a Jumbotron until the Elf got very cold. They lasted until just a few seconds past the Presidential oath, then turned and made their way out of the city before the rest of the people left.

When the Elf returned home, I expected a detailed description of her woes. Instead, she offered a rather mature "I was miserable while we were there, but I am so happy I went!"

While I was disappointed that I could not myself be a part of that sea of flag waving humanity, I am glad I was able to watch closeups of Barack Obama the moment before he stepped out of the Capitol building. As he was descending the stairs, he had this look on his face.... "destiny" was all I could think. It was very humbling to be able to witness this intimate moment, in which he was as fully conscious as I suppose any of us can ever hope to be. I did not see triumph, power, levity, but a grave look that left me thinking that this man is coming to serve us. I wish you well, Mr. President.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

books and love and gratitude

I am currently reading Henning Köhler's Difficult Children - there is no such thing. In the book, he explores (among other things) how our society and educational establishment today deal with children who fall outside the "norm" of behavior. In Chapter 6, Köhler talks about the debate of what is causing these differently wired children, and how it affects the way we view children. He addresses what the impulse of childhood means for our society today, and how we need to artistically help children find their way to who they are and what their mission is in this life. The sentence that sums it all up for me states:

"Wherever I do not approach the child by way of confirming his existence, I permit the feeling within me that he should not be allowed to exist the way he does, that, therefore, he ought to exist in a different way." He continues: "In so doing, I ruin his fundamental bodily security and reinforce the experiences of alienation... Wherever I do not summon an encouraging attitude, I lack confidence in the child's autonomous forces of development, and thereby undermine his sense of self-esteem, causing in him an underlying feeling of failure."

As the mother of a "difficult" child, this is deep food for thought. The question that arises is how do I identify the needs of a child who does not behave like most other children? When am I doing more harm and sending the message that my child ought to be different and when am I truly helpful? With all the dietary changes, supplementation etc. to address sensory issues and anxiety, not to mention all the physical, occupational and play therapy, am I ultimately helping the child become more "functional" in this world, or am I causing some level of harm? What is the price my child pays for all the good natured "behavior modifications" that have been drilled into us?

The answer of course is difficult. But I have tools: meditation, prayer, intuition. I usually know what is helping and what is hurting my child, which therapist is truly embracing who she is and which one is trying to "whip her into shape." Köhler speaks of "levels of love" that begin with a deep affirmation of the child's true nature deep within ourselves. Love as medicine, the most fundamental of all human truths.

I used to have a lot of trouble with this love. It was hard to love an infant who never seemed to sleep and spent most of her waking hours screaming and needing to be held. I always loved my child on some level, but there were periods of time when I didn't really like her, for she was so very hard to parent. I do see the effects of some of my feelings about her back then even today. But my child has taught me how to love her for who she is. One of the most effective therapies for both of us has been music therapy, in which we quickly learned how her intense noise sensitivity could blossom into a musical gift. Because so often we forget, don't we, that many of the behavioral "differences" we see in our children are the double of some deep and often hidden gift. Today, my "difficult" child (and she still has many challenges just to get through the day) is able to bring some of her gifts to the world. Her sweetness is healing to her teacher (and her mother!), her loving friendship supports a few other children (and adults) deeply, and her higher being shines through in so many ways every day that it is impossible not to see the spiritual being she is. She is a creator of beautiful artwork, and a loving sister. She deeply understands people and is an incredible listener.

In the end, I feel that Köhler is presenting me with a choice: do I want to see the "difficult" part of my child and focus merely on her less desirable behaviors, or do I want to affirm who my child is, and that these behaviors are caused by deep sensitivities, which can reveal a rare gift. I am so greatful that I have learned over time to affirm and let love shine a light on who this child really is.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

farewell to 2008

After our visitors left, we sat down for an early dinner. Every year, we write a list of our hopes for the year. We keep it inside our wall calendar and review the list on New Year's Eve. Our hopes for 2008 included good health for everyone, job satisfaction, harmony in our home, more time with friends and a long list of specific wishes for each family member. On the whole, even though 2008 felt like a big struggle a lot of the time, most of the important wishes were fulfilled, while a number of smaller ones (like going skiing) were not. Overall a good year.

We then took out scraps of paper and pens and took turns writing down all that occurred in 2008 which we didn't want to take into the new year with us. This included sibling fights, fears, hurt feelings and scraped knees among others. It was surprising to see how many things the girls wanted to leave behind, but also what they wanted to hang on to (like tears for example). When we couldn't think of another item to write on our paper scraps, we built a fire and took turns balling up our scraps and throwing them into the flames.

Some of the biggest blessings of 2008 were the Hobbit's continued health, as well as that of the Wizard's grandmother. We added two more pets to our family and had more time with just the four of us to enjoy. The Wizard and I overcame one of the most challenging years of our marriage, in which we both had to examine how much we meant to each other. In the end we chose to love each other more for who we are and who we are becoming, and 2009 is beginning with our relationship in the best place it has been in years. 2008 brought a lot of work stress for the whole family, and we will continue to learn how to balance full time working parents with the needs of our family and my studies. Financially 2008 has been a fair year, and we are hopeful in spite of the economy that we will be okay, provided the house and the cars hold up!

There is much work ahead all around. But we're all quite excited for 2009 and all the gifts and blessings and lessons it will bring into our lives.

I wish you all light, health and many blessings for 2009.