Wednesday, January 26, 2022

An Ode to Sam

We've gone through the mood swings, the ups-and-downs, the aggressive behavior, the tantrums, and the frustration that the child has had to offer.

OH....I'm not talking about TYLER.....I'm talking about SAM!!

Yes, we thought raising an autistic child was the ultimate challenge, but that was before navigating the rocky waters of a 12-year-old girl.  If you never raised a girl, much less a pre-teen girl, let me give you some insight.  

1. You are never going to win.  We sway back and forth between being parents that aren't helpful at all to lecturing too much.  "Help me.....LEAVE ME ALONE!"

2.  See rule number one.

Nostradamus didn't look at things being the end of the world as often as she does.  If he did, he might have predicted that losing your headphones, having the wrong thing for dinner, or being asked to clean something in your room, would lead to the sun careening full speed into the earth and killing us all in a fireball of pre-teen inferno.  Satan himself would rise from the flames and we would all learn that he is simply a 12-year-old that had his phone privileges taken away.  

My parents will become so satisfied to read this and I can hear them saying it...."now you know what we went through".  To this I call bullshit.  I grew up watching bugs bunny and pro wrestling.  The worst I was going to do was shoot someone with a bazooka or hit another kid with a steel chair.  You know...harmless kid stuff.  But now we are watching pre-teen and teen shows that pretend parents don't actually exist, and kids transporting themselves from one drama to the next without supervision.  My biggest electronic obsession was Atari.  Trust me when I say 1979 it didn't hook up to the internet. Basically the only place you were going to find a pervert was at the local Dunkin Donuts pay phone booth. Now we have to worry about snapchat, tik tok, twitter, and a whole host of other platforms that kids flock to.  Danger could be lurking in the corners of their own phone and we may not even know it.  A bad day for us might have been skinning a knee riding our bike.  Now our kids have to worry about cyber-bullying and worse.  We didn't feel compelled to grow up quickly, and our kids think they are 30 before they are 12.

And yet, my daughter is amazing and beautiful, inside and out.  Within all of the turmoil and battles for independence, there is a sweetness and generosity that shines through.  Being wise behind her years is a challenge for her now but will serve her so well in the future.  She is strong and determined, she just needs the circumstances of the future to slowly come her way.  I have no doubt that she will be successful in whatever she decides to do.  Even when she believes that we are being "mean" or that we "don't care", we are so proud of her and are doing everything we can to help her have a happy life.

I watched her Sunday singing in front of the congregation, making the people smile as the praise group sang their songs.  And I watched her hug her brother and tell him that she loved him.  Yesterday she received her second exemplary report card for this year, nearly all A's.  She gets involved with school activities like chorus and student groups aimed at making school better and more inclusive for everyone.  When I look at her I can only wonder if she realizes how special she is, and how proud we are, and how much we love her.  With the mixed messages the world offers up, it may be hard to see this for a sassy 12-year-old.

My prayer for her is that she continues to harness that courage and intensity, and use it for positive causes for herself and others.  That she understands that those around her that love her so deeply will not be with her in body forever, and that she should cherish each day with them.  And that her special gifts are rare and meant to be shared with everyone.  And maybe once, for heaven sakes, clean her room.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Saturday, January 22, 2022

What is a Hug?

 "Squeeze tightly in one's arms, typically to express affection."

It's quite possible that hugs are one of the most forgotten things that humans are capable of doing.  Hugs are a gift that we can give, at no cost, which represent our most warm and vulnerable parts of us.  

I remember my friend Ronnie, who I lost many years ago, who really taught me that we should truly love our friends.  He used to greet me every time I saw him, with a hug.  As a twenty-something male who wanted to be masculine and cool, it was a little weird at first.  And yet, it became something I was able to understand.  His hugs told me that he was happy to see me, he loved me, and how he felt transcended anything that was normal macho.

I remember the time at Disney World.  It was our last time taking Tyler with us and I knew it.  Tyler had become too complicated to travel so extensively with, and I was becoming too worn down to pull it off.  One day we were at Epcot and had a pass to do a visit with Mickey Mouse.  We took some terrific pictures as a family, including my inlaws, As we exited, Mickey came over to me and offered me a hug,  This was no ordinary hug.  This was the hug of a person who was sending a message of love and encouragement.  I will never forget the meaning behind that embrace.

I remember my grandfather-in-law John who may have never hugged another man in his life.  But being someone that I was around for so many years, and had come to respect, I attempted to show him some affection.  I would hug him, or even give him a kiss on the cheek.  At first it seemed very foreign to him, but he never totally resisted the idea.  By the time he became significantly older, he was actually used to a little friendly affection, and a few other people were able to show him love as well.  

Along the same lines, I've been able to be much more expressive with my inlaws as well.  We have all been able to learn, through our many experiences and challenges, that hugging one another and telling one another how important they are, makes our lives better.  Its like an antibody against the negative viruses the world attempts to throw at us.  

It sounds like such a dumb thing.  Hugging your friends and your family can be the most memorable and impactful thing that you can do.  In that brief few seconds you are literally giving yourself to another person.  You are releasing love and support without saying a single word.  Its like a transfer of positive energy and strength.  

 Challenge yourself to hug your friends.  Even if they may find it awkward, hug your friends.  COVID has taken so much personal contact away from us, social media has eroded so much personal contact, and our own anxieties have backed us away from others, to the point that we have forgotten the importance of simple affectionate gestures.  Your willingness to openly love someone may give them that moment that changes their own approach to others forever.  

Be well and God bless.   Tom