Guest Post by The Thinking Moms Revolution whose book and writings have contributed hugely to the awareness of the reality of autism and the possibilities for full recovery. I am so glad they found each other and that they have joined together to write so that they can extend their blessing far and wide. I have been blessed many times over by their struggles. This piece is really for all parents and helps us to understand the power of our role in our children’s lives.
Moments that bring me to my knees, I love them. Well, I should clarify. I love the ones that bring me to my knees with gratitude – like that guy bursting out of the sewer pipe in Shawshank Redemption, glad to be alive. That is good stuff. But when you are a parent of a kid with challenges – be it social, academic, physical, or all challenges rolled into one – it can be something like noticing a bug on the sidewalk and stepping on it that channels that inner Shawshank. “YESsssssssss – he noticed a BUG. Damn straight, my man – high five! OH, SNAP – he stepped on it!!! How APPROPRIATE was that?!?!”
You KNOW you know what I’m talking about.
There are also those milestones that everyone would agree are definitely fall-to-your-knees worthy. Learning to walk (at any age), talking (again at any age), peeing and pooping in the potty, staying dry through the night, etc. My latest “on my knees” moment was brought to me courtesy of the YMCA. We have a network of awesome YMCAs around us, and my son LOVES the indoor rock-climbing walls. He’s tried all the rock walls at all the YMCAs that are nearby. He has a body size that is not ideal for rock climbing. His low muscle strength, poor motor planning and general inability to focus provide additional challenges. But about a year after he discovered indoor rock climbing – he got to the top!
It was so sweet because it was something typical. And kid-like. And just about age appropriate. We weren’t congratulating him for regaining his composure after a cherished plan was cancelled, or celebrating his first words four years after he lost the ability to speak. This was different. And he was SO PROUD. SO. PROUD. The really sweet thing to me was the reminder to NOT GIVE UP. I didn’t realize it, but I had been going through the motions while taking him to the different rock-climbing facilities during the past year. I didn’t realize that, in my head, I had written it off as something it would be unlikely that he could accomplish.
Then one night, when he was particularly down about not making progress on the wall, he asked, “When will I get to the top?” It hit me that he had a goal of making it to the top, and he said “WHEN,” not “IF.” He had a goal, and he believed he would reach it; it was just a matter of when.
So then it hit me, this child of mine senses when I’m in a crappy mood when he gets home from school. He looks at me more, tells me he loves me and actually starts having a bad day. Just because he is catching my snarky need-more-sleep/coffee/yoga vibe. So if he’s picking up on that so easily, what’s he picking up when I “go through the motions” at the YMCA climbing wall?
So I said to him – answering the question as to WHEN he’d be getting to the top – “Probably this summer. It will take some work, and you might feel frustrated sometimes, but you will get to the top this summer.” Shit. What did I just do? Promise something I can’t deliver?
Around the same time, an awesome a local friend showed me some cool sensory integration techniques for a separate issue my son was having. I started with the easiest techniques that focused on fingers and arms and did them at bedtime a couple times a week, but not regularly. So when my son scooted up that rock wall, and I thought ‘What the heck has changed that this is now possible?’ I thought immediately of the sensory integration therapy. Of course, that had to be it.
Then I saw this:
Dr. Masaru Emoto has done experiments exploring the power of thoughts on the physical world. This image is from someone recreating his Rice Experiment. He filled three glass jars with rice, covered with water. Jar A he said “thank you” to everyday. Jar B he said “you idiot” to everyday. Jar C he simply ignored. After thirty days Jar A was fermenting nicely. Jar B was black. Jar C was rotting. This image is a simplified version where one jar is labeled “love” and sent loving thoughts and words. The second jar is labeled “hate” and sent hateful thoughts and words. You can see the results. Several people I know have tried this experiment at home with similar results.
Between the rice experiment and my children’s negative behavior when I am off, I couldn’t help but wonder about the power of my mental shift about the rock wall.
So . . . I guess that this is my thought for today.
I know, I know, sometimes your thoughts are your only refuge. But lately, I see my less-than-positive thoughts as my prison. The more “negative” I fill my head with, the more “negative” that is drawn into my physical world. But simple shifts in my thinking – recognizing negative self-talk, obstacles I create, expectations of failure – have created corrections to my path. And now, my son’s path. Perhaps my daughter’s path.
No sugar coating here: it requires a goodly amount of attention to your thoughts (okay, constant attention). And at first it feels fake (“I’m grateful I have food to cook, again, for my constantly hungry family who don’t show an ounce of appreciation”), but just like everything that takes practice, it becomes part of your routine, and then very, very authentic (“I’m so grateful for our warm home and a toilet that flushes”).
I initially believed that I could not control what popped into my head. Over time, what I’ve found is that your thought process is a habit as much as anything else. Of course, when you stub your toe, you’re going to think “Ouch – dang it,” but you don’t need to go into the worm hole of “Again? Another crappy thing? Why today? I need today to be good!!” And when you do start slipping into that worm hole, if you are paying attention, you can stop yourself and say, “That hurt. Let’s carry on with my bruised, yet unbroken toe.” When it comes down to it, I’ve spent most of my life trying to control my outside environment. Which means trying to control other people, events beyond my control. What I haven’t realized is that the thing that could make the most difference in my life is the one thing I can control: my thoughts.