Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Have A Dream...

"The cost of ignorance is incredible."  My coffee cup wielding hand paused halfway to my mouth when I heard these words by Mayor Cory Booker on "Meet the Press" over this past weekend.  I found myself thinking, no kidding Mr. Mayor.  Tell that to my neighbor who dressed in a Klan hood for Halloween last year, waving at passing cars on the street corner.  Tell it to everyone who has ever raised an eyebrow when my five-year-old tells them he is homeschooled.  Tell it to anyone and everyone who has ever passed judgment (silently or out loud) on the parents of a special needs child who are just trying to make it through a public outing, despite fears, tears, and meltdowns on the part of the child.  I believe, on the whole, humanity has an innate desire to be kind toward one another.  The evidence is out there and I see it firsthand quite often.  However, somewhere, somehow, ignorance has crept in the cracks and crevices of our souls, gumming up the gears that turn compassion.  I don't know how else to explain the acts of cruelty we seem capable of as humans. 

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.  Just last week, I found myself explaining who Dr. King was and what he stood for to my five-year-old.  He couldn't comprehend a world where blacks and whites were segregated, and frankly, I hope he never does.  As I sat listening to Mayor Booker talk on my TV last weekend, I thought about ignorance.  The more I thought, the more I agreed with his statement.  The cost of ignorance is incredible.  The cost is hurt.  The cost is hate.  The cost is a life.  The cost is HUMANITY.  Dr. King's dream had to do with peace, harmony, acceptance, and love for one another.  I, a lowly housewife and mother, also have a dream.  It encompasses all the same things yours did, Dr. King.  I have a dream that ignorance be eradicated and in its place, acceptance, understanding, and love reign supreme.  Idyllic you say?  Maybe.  Soft you say?  Probably.  (Being a mom has kind of done that to me.)  But it is my dream.  Imagine a world full of people who, rather than judge and criticize, make an honest effort toward understanding and learning about one another.  That's the world I want for my children.  Heck, it's the world I want for myself.  Don't you?   

Friday, August 23, 2013

Buddy, Friend, Pal

I've been thinking about friends this week.  If you had asked me not long ago how many friends I had, I probably would have laughed.  Friends were something vaguely remembered from a time before I was constantly covered in someone else's bodily fluids and when I showered, fixed my hair, and put on makeup EVERY morning. 
When my oldest was a baby, I read a magazine article about the five friends every mom should have.  I can't remember all of the 'friends' suggested, but they were things like the cool friend without kid of her own, the friend who has kids your own kids ages, the older wiser mom friend who's been there done get the picture.  I read this article knowing at the time that I had no friends with children, and few close friends at all.  Years passed, another child came along, and my friend scorecard went up by maybe two?  By the time my daughter was just over a year old, I was obsessively worried about our son, who was four, having no friends of his own.  We started going to the library and trying to get him to Bible class at church regularly.  He thought we were just doing fun stuff, but I was on a desperate search for a FRIEND!!  Alas, we weren't the best at getting to Bible class on time and the library visits tapered off thanks to my daughter's proclivity for wreaking havoc in all public places. 
My son's fifth birthday rolled around and there were no 'friends' to invite to his party.  He didn't seem to mind, but I was feeling like a total parental failure.  On top of worrying about my son finding a playmate, my husband (I like to think he worried as much I did, just silently) and I were also sleep-deprived, crazy people who had spent the last two years trying to get through one day at a time first with a difficult newborn, then a difficult infant, now a difficult toddler....(I've blogged about this in the past and won't go into tons of detail here.)  We weren't exactly friendly, social butterflies.  We were weary, exhausted parents who had our patience tried to a breaking point daily and went to bed on the verge of tears the majority of the time.  Our poor son's social life fell to the wayside, as did our own.  We lost touch with nearly everyone, all the while feeling as though we were drowning in daily life. 
Finally, this past June after a well-meaning comment from our daughter's speech therapist, I had had enough.  I did something drastic.  I rejoined Facebook.  Surely out there in social media land was someone who would be our friend!  I slowly started to reconnect with people.  Some of them I hadn't talked to or seen in a few months, some I hadn't spoken with in years.  I had the chance to meet up with a friend I had known since childhood and was pleasantly surprised to find we had even more in common than when we were kids.  (Mental note:  Check 'cool friend who doesn't have kids yet' off the list!)  We also as a family, got to meet up with some of our 'couple' friends for lunch.  We had a great time talking and catching up and vowed not to let it go another year before we got back together.  (Mental note:  Couple friends were not on the list, but I'm totally checking them off anyway!)  A few weeks later, my son had the opportunity to attend a local VBS and came home full of talk about all his new friends.  Instantly, my worries started to resurface.  What if these were friends he wouldn't see again?  These were kids his age who would most likely be starting school in the fall, while he would be doing school at home.  In the meantime, we started going back to the library.  After a year off (maybe the people at the library wouldn't recognize us now!), I felt brave enough to try this venture again.  Call it what you will, (serendipity, fate, destiny?) the second or third storytime later, who did we run into but my son's friends from VBS?  He was overjoyed to see them again and after chatting with one of their mom's, I found out two of his friends were being homeschooled too!  Joy of joys!!  Friends for him and friends for me!  (Mental note:  check 'friend with kids your kids age' off the list!)  Last, but by no means least, is a friend I had all along.  My mom and I try to go out and do a little shopping or errand running together once every other week or so.  On the most recent all-day outing, I shall not tell a lie; my children were holy terrors.  Their behavior was atrocious.  My son spent the entire day contradicting, arguing, and seeing just how far he could push me without actually getting in major trouble.  My daughter spent the entire day echoing his every statement with the word, "Duh!"  Not a proud parenting moment.  My mom was nice enough to find the humor in the situation.  (Mental note:  Check off 'older, wiser friend who's been there and done that.') 
These days, my friend tally is on the upward swing, but I've found that strength doesn't necessarily come in numbers, but rather quality.  Let's take a moment to do a 'friendly' recount:  I have some religious friends and some that aren't so much.  I have friend with kids and friends without.  I have friends who are also family.  I have old friends that remember me when I was gawky and awkward, and who saw me through some really bad haircuts and fashion choices.  I have new friends that I look forward to getting to know better.  The best thing about them all is they surround me with positivity, acceptance, and encouragement.  And all those worries I had about my son not making any friends all but disappeared as I watched him romp through the playground with his new buddies, taking a time out only to sit and read a book together.  Even my daughter, who as a rule avoids other children like the plague, tagged along and watched the fun from a safe distance.  Here's to friends.  Cheers to all of you out there who remind me to see the humor in life, who don't mind that I'm often covered in my children's bodily fluids, and who give me a reason to leave the house with my hair AND makeup done!!                

Friday, August 16, 2013

Past, Present, Future

Today is a beautiful day.  It's the middle of August but feels like late September outside.  There's a dry crispness in the air that hints tantalizingly of impending Fall.  Today is a day to enjoy the sweet anticipation of pumpkins, dry leaves crackling underfoot, and the smell of Russian Tea simmering on the stove.  I don't know what Fall is going to bring here at the House of Cockrell.  Thus far, summer has brought us many things.  Summer brought us family, holidays, warm nights, and plenty of mosquitoes.  June brought the beginning of a long road of therapy sessions for Aud.  August has brought Aid's first day of school.  (That was a day that not so long ago seemed an eternity away.)  September will bring Aud's developmental evaluation and all the uncertainties that go with it.  It's easy for me to look ahead (sometimes in terror, sometimes in joy) at what is to come or what might be.  I have no trouble at all conjuring situations yet to be and bringing them to fruition in my mind's eye as if they were plays unfolding on a stage.  It is more difficult to me to minutely examine choices that were already made and events that already happened.  Choice is taken out of memory.  It is easier to plan your future choices than to look back and decide if past choices were good or right ones.  However, today I am looking back on a summer that slipped away.  I've woken up many mornings wondering how months can pass unnoticed and at times feeling a sense of failure at the little I've accomplished in half a year.  I feel as though it has been a summer spent in waiting.  Waiting for school to start.  Waiting for company to get here.  Waiting for cooler weather.  Waiting for rain.  Waiting for Lego Club at the library to begin.  Waiting for this looming doctor's appointment that will give us a look at what the future holds for Aud and where the next fork in the road will lead.  I've said before that life with Aud has been one long lesson in patience.  How satisfying it would be if we had all the answers given to us the instant we wanted them.  Life would have been so much easier for the past two and a half years if they had been able to tell us everything we know now and what we're about to find out in September on the day we left the hospital to take Aud home.  I would trade a lot of things to have been able to have that understanding sooner.  There's no describing the heartache and guilt it would have saved me from as a mother, not to mention what wonders it might have done for Aud's first two years of life.  I've spent many nights baring my soul to God and praying to see the reason behind it.  More than once I've sat in her bedroom floor surrounded by untouched dolls, books, stuffed toys, etc. and I've cried until there were no more tears.  Mark has held on to me while I sobbed so hard I couldn't hold myself up.  And you might feel like that makes me a selfish and terrible person.  But it's not just for the 'normal' little girl I expected to have or for myself that I've cried.  My grief has also been for this amazing child we've been given who has strength and courage most people never realize in their lifetime.  A little girl who is misunderstood and judged by shallow-minded people I see looking at her sideways in a restaurant when she can't stop repeating the same word over and over or when she screams in public places because she can't cope with the noises or other sensory overload.  It's a physical ache to know that your child is preset to travel a harder road than you've ever been on.  I've spent time being angry at God.  I've spent time thanking Him.  And while it isn't an easy road we're on, it's the one we've been given.  Aud is who she is and while I might wish for the power to erase the prejudices of narrow-minded people who see us struggling through a shopping trip and think we don't believe in discipline or cut their eyes sideways when she acts oddly, I don't wish to change who she is.  I'm not going to lie, sometimes she terrifies me.  There are times I feel I am beyond inadequately equipped to parent and guide her.  There are days when I feel I will never have enough to give her.  Days when I feel I will never have enough patience, enough grace, enough self-control.  However, there are also days when I wish others could know the happiness of hearing your child's first two word sentence in the way Mark and I have.  Aud is teaching me little by little, day by day, the lessons I haven't yet learned from life, and there seem to be an infinite amount of them.  While I wish I could have been given understanding sooner, I also feel like I'm being given knowledge a little at a time for a reason.  If someone had given it to me all in one dose, I don't know that I could have handled it.  So with each diagnosis and impending evaluation, with each therapy session that brings a new challenge or victory, I am being given a chance to better myself, to improve as a parent, as an advocate, and as a human being.  I become less judgmental, less critical, more accepting, more flexible, more loving.  I gain, bit by bit, things like patience and gentleness.  I don't understand the 'why' behind it.  I may not ever know.  I don't necessarily believe that God made Aud this way to make me a better person.  I somehow feel that would be incredibly egotistical of me.  I do think Aud makes the world a better place, just as I feel Aid makes the world a better place.  And maybe Aud does that by forcing the people around her to find ways to better themselves, just like Aid does it with his exuberance and love for all that surrounds him.  Together, they are an unstoppable force.  I am lucky to be called their mommy.  And while some days that's easier said than done, I try my hardest to take my cues from them.  Who knows, maybe one day, the world will be a little brighter place because of it.  So I end this blogginess by saying, I have not always and will not always make the best choice for the moment in time the choice needs to be made, and that's okay.  The past shapes the future, but does not define it.  I look back on a busy and chaotic summer and know that I didn't accomplish everything I wished I had.  I'm at peace with that.  I know that life isn't only about what's already happened.  Nor is it about what will happen in the future.  Life is about the moment where things past and future meet.  Take a minute to look back and look ahead.  The moment you're sitting in is a perfect meshing of the two.  That moment is now.  A perfect combination of reminiscence and anticipation.  I think I'll take some coffee outside and soak it in.