Saturday, January 2, 2010

A post not at all about potty training...

Note: This post is a part of an unfinished thought. I guess you could say it is Part One of a larger idea. More to come later.

It seems to me there are two extremes in parenting: A parent who parents with utter confidence that they know what is best for their child and goes about orchestrating that belief in the life of their family and children, ignoring other philosophies along the way. The benefit: Not having to deal with guilt as you make parenting choices for your child, and staying true to your core beliefs. The down side: The possibility you are wrong and might really screw things up.

The other extreme would be the parent who waffles about what is best. Who hears every advice and critic, and makes parenting choices based on the arguments of others and the voices that come through the loudest. The benefit: Drawing on the wisdom of others. The down side: Never feeling confident that you are choosing what is right. Never blocking out the outside influence long enough to know what your core beliefs are.

Of course, we all probably hover between these two extremes in our level of parental confidence and choice making. In fact, we probably all slide up and down the scale when it comes to different aspects of parenting our children, or even child to child. Maybe we start off our parenting journey at one end, and travel slowly to the other as time wears on.

Calvin.

Calvin is a boy who, I am confident will find his way in life. My job: To train him up in the way he should go, so when he is a man he will not part from it. It seems to me that whether we home school, public school, or anything in between, if we take the time to nurture his unique character, to give him a firm foundation of truth and goodness and compassion, and give him a philosophy of history that he can base his understanding on, he will do well. So, we guide him day to day in consistent and compassionate ways to teach him the way, to make sure he understands the path. We keep a keen eye on his gifts and talents and encourage him in the ways that he struggles. It seems almost too easy, but we go about it with fear and trembling as we know our wisdom is not infinite. We learn as we go along. We listen to the heart of our Lord. We pray for wisdom daily.

Charlie.

Charlie is a boy who, when I hold him in my arms after he has fallen to sleep, I pray that we are making the right choices for him. When our doctor called to confirm a Down Syndrome diagnosis when he was 10 weeks old, I said, "Okay. So what do we do now?" Truth be told, I don't know exactly what I was asking, but the doctor's words to me were, "Just keep doing what you've been doing."

It was great advice, and from that moment on our goal was to treat Charlie just as we would had he not had Down Syndrome. Our goal was for him to be a regular part of the community. To be included. Sure, he is special, but he is also just a regular part of who we all are.

Well, that idea is fine in theory, but truth is we had no idea how to treat a 'regular' baby. We had never had a baby before, and here Charlie was, hearing impaired, floppy as a rag doll, falling behind cognitively more and more with each passing month, doing very few of the same things the children of our friends were doing.

Then there was the team of people who, for all practical purposes, were helping us to raise him. The itinerant teacher who came to the house every Tuesday, the Occupational Therapist on Wednesday, the Speech Therapist on Thursday, the Speech and Language Pathologist on Thursday afternoon. There was the audiologist, the ENT, the Regional Center services coordinator, the dental hygenist that made home visits, the eye doctor, the regular doctor. After a while it started to feel like Ray and I had very little input on how to raise Charlie. In part, we were soaking up the advise we were getting like sponges, because honestly we were scared. Partly because we had so much "home work" to do in between therapy appointments. His success or failure was up to us.

And, though we have gained confidence, and though, through our self education, we have come to know more about Down Syndrome than many of the professionals in our lives, and though we feel like we've become experts on Charlie as an individual apart from his diagnosis, we often feel more like consultants than parents when in comes to the whole "Charlie Package." You know, the Grand Plan comprised of IEP's, IPP's, therapies, treatments, and education, and the sheer dollar amount being invested in him to turn him from helpless child to contributing adult. It is both comforting and daunting, helpful and intrusive.

So, when I hold him in my arms and listen to his little raspy breaths I wonder, "Is all of this busyness what we would be doing for him if we didn't have all the background voices telling us how to raise him to manhood?"

(More thoughts to come later...)

1 comment:

j*e*n said...

I know how you feel about soaking everything up. When Ainsley was born, I felt like we were relearning everything. I wasn't supposed to hold her the same way I'd held Gavin, I couldn't feed her the way I'd learned to do...and on and on. We're trying to treat our kiddos the same, but I'm finding that it doesn't work as well in practice as it does in theory. And she does come with a "team," that sometimes confuses us more than we were before. Fun!!

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