Saturday, April 09, 2011

Your Son, My Inspiration

Dear Mom and Dad,

I met your son today. He came to one of the trainings that I am doing on abuse prevention. He joined in willingly and participated well. We chatted afterwards and I had this sudden desire to talk with you. I know I'll never meet you. I know that even if our paths cross, we won't know it. So, I send this out to you.

You've raised a terrific kid. I know that you must have worried endlessly about how he'll do in the world, what adulthood will mean to him and just how he will fare living the life he has to live. I know this because I know that parents of all kids worry about these things. You, however, may have worried a little more. He has a disability, your son, and that means he has a harder walk, he will take longer to get to where he is going and there will be dangers along the way that are particular to him. I wonder, as I listen to him talk about his life, how you prepared to parent him - this kid with incredible social skills, this kid with a sense of himself.

You did a good job in teaching him to be comfortable in his own skin. He has a natural shyness that can only serve him well, it is not a shyness that debilitates him, it is not a shyness born of shame. No, he is just unassuming and waits to see if he is safe and accepted. It's a skill - this shyness of his. It was terrific to see him be just who he is, to 'wear' his disability naturally. He knows what disability means to him, he knows how to deal with situations where his disability leaves him without skill. After talking about something, Joe wrote down the name for him of a film and slid the paper over to him. He did not panic. He didn't even flinch. He just said, 'The way it is with me is that I'm not good with reading.' In that statement is both self awareness and assertion. He knows who he is, he can say what disability means to him. I then simply read to him what was on the paper. He thanked me and put the paper away. No one stumbled over words, no one was embarrassed. That single moment must have been the results of hours of parenting, of floods of tears, of hugs and reassurances. I don't think I've ever before seen a loving hug given in the past tense, show itself in behaviour in the present tense.

Our conversation roamed over large territory. He spoke of some of the volunteer work he does. He spoke, again with quiet confidence, about a talent he has. He said, 'Talent is a gift, it needs to be shared, it needs to be given away.' Good heavens, I swear I heard the echos of your voices there. He enjoyed talking about what he gives to others, this was someone who understands that this is a world of both give and take. He loves to give. Just as he was comfortable coming clean with his disability and what it means, he was equally comfortable in talking about his talent and how it has affected his life and how he wishes to affect his world. I don't think I've ever seen praise, well earned honest praise, given when young, given long ago, be so incredibly part of the DNA of now.

And the really big deal for me was that he still had dreams. No. No. I don't mean goals. Sure he has goals but he also has dreams. So many people with disabilities are subject to goal planning that is done in such concrete, real time ways that in the process of writing down and scripting the future - goals are solidified and dreams are slaughtered. He has dreams. Dreams are meant to be big, unachievable, over arching things - they are to be like the theme song to life. He has them. He is chasing them. He doesn't even care if he gets there - he loves the chase, he's enjoying the journey. Ah, man, to arrive at adulthood with clear eyed goals and misty eyed dreams - that's the result of parenting genius.

I felt honoured to meet your son. His sense of humour, his ease of being in the world and his self awareness makes him so wonderfully likable. I loved having the opportunity to teach him. He said to me, 'That's not how it was taught in school,' referring to my class. I asked him, concerned, what they had taught in school, he said, 'In school it was boring.' I was thrilled. His opinion mattered to me. I liked the fact that he liked what I had done as a teacher. Your kid is one special guy. Not special special ... just special. And that's because of you. That's because you taught him how to be who he was - with no apology, with expectations of equality, with the ability to ask for what he needed to get by.

After a long and sometimes hard week. You gave me hope because you gave him hope.

Thank you.


Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Dave.

As the parent of a child with disabilities, I sometimes wonder if it's even possible to do this job right. There are so many pitfalls for us to avoid. It's encouraging to hear about parenting gone right.

Stephanie said...

I only hope I can do half as well with my son. Bravo to his parents, and to him for truely living on HIS own terms.


Steph and Christopher

Clay said...

That was an especially heart-warming post, Dave. Very enjoyable, reading about a young man with a great attitude.

Celine said...

Thank you Dave.

For so many things.

My Girls R Angels said...

Thank you, Dave! You are right, RST, there are so many unknowns when parenting a child with a disability. We try and we try and we try. How nice to hear that there are happy endings. Thank you for sharing and giving us the hope we need to continue trying. :)

Daisy said...

It's wonderful to know that there are parents out there who are getting it so right! Thank you for sharing this story.

Kristin said...

That's the kind of parent I want to be...that I hope I am.

Blog editor said...

So many things to love about this post, as others have said.

Perhaps what I love most is that it is *not* about what the young man had achieved such as he "won this prize/race/competition", but that it is about how he *is*.

I know achievements are important, but being the way this young man is so much more - for him, and everyone in his life.

As always, you have said it so well, without a trace of sentimentality.

Thanks Dave.



moplans said...

thanks Dave

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post Dave.
It was great to read such a heartwaming story.

Maggie said...

As a parent whose kids are now 40, I can see today that there are some things I did right, and some mistakes whose DNA is still visible.

What a wonderful demonstration this young man gives of good parenting, skillfully, patiently and persistently done.

What a wonderful demonstration you give of clear observation, warm appreciation, heartfelt communication skillfully and beautifully done.

What a fine letter for the parents of every young man at your trainings this week to read, and see themselves in even a little part of it, and glow with pride.

Tori said...

I thought that this blog was truly inspiring. It was so nice to hear about parents who took the time and had the confidence to raise such a fantastic child. For this young man to have such high self-esteem and self-worth, shows that his parents must've been very committed to him, and loved him a lot! It was nice to read because too often parents are only being told what they did wrong as apposed to right! Thank you for such a touching blog, it literally brought tears to my eyes.

Ashley Brooke said...

I really enjoyed reading this blog. Working with children with disabilities I sometimes wonder exactly how hard it is on the parents to keep their child positive. Reading about parents who raise their child like this one in the story was amazing and encouraging to know that there are parents who care about their children and make sure they stay focused on their dreams and goals in life.. I really enjoyed this blog. Thank you for sharing.

Ashley Burghardt said...

I really enjoyed reading this blog. Working with children with disabilities I sometimes wonder exactly how hard it is on the parents to keep their child positive. Reading about parents who raise their child like this one in the story was amazing and encouraging to know that there are parents who care about their children and make sure they stay focused on their dreams and goals in life.. I really enjoyed this blog. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this heart-warming post, it’s very inspiring! It’s nice to know that there are some parents out there that are truly committed to their children, and keep trying different things with them to see what works best, etc. This post isn’t about how the young man won the competition, but rather because of how he is. This young man has great self-esteem and confidence, and I truly believe that he can do whatever his heart desires.

michelle, DSW student.

Karla said...

This blog was very inspiring to me. I like knowing that there are parents out there who really, truly take the time to raise their children in a good sense.From the sounds of it, his parents must have been very committed, and from this, he gained a great self esteem. These parents need a good pat on the back for doing such a great job! Children with disabilities really do need the extra encouragement to help them through the negative aspects of their lives. Live strong, think positive!

Paul R said...

Thank you for this blog. While reading it tears came to my eyes and not in the sad way, but in an inspirational way. I am working with children with disabilities and I also parent a stepson with a disability. Everyday I worry about the things you mention in this blog. Hearing about this wonderful young man, I heard about a boy with strength, confidence, bravery and motivation for life. This gave me a great deal of HOPE for my own stepson. At times I wonder and worry about all of the unknowns he will face in the future. I wonder if we prepare him well enough to deal with who he is and how to cope in the world without feeling shame for being himself. Hearing about this young man is an inspiration to continue teaching and working hard with my stepson. I know he may not have the same results, but we can help him to become all he can be. Dave thank you for pointing out the positives and allowing others to hear this story, I feel it is important for us to recognise the positives as so often we only hear of the negatives when parents have failed.
Thank you!

Terri-Ann said...

Parents that teach their child what it takes to survive in the real world provides others with inspiration and hope.

Anonymous said...

This is such a heart-warming article. We personally know this young man & his family & think they have done a terric job with him, especially his mother. I have heard his music & seen his artwork & he is very good at both.
This comes through the encouragement of his mother. As the sister of a disabled person, I know what she has gone through.

Shelley & June Prytula (neighbors)

Tracy Robidoux said...

Just thought I would say thanks for all the kind words and for this amazing blog you wrote. My son spoke very highly of meeting you and I can see why. Parenting is definately not an easy thing to do in this time and age, but even harder when your child has a disability. I did the best I could and the only way I thought was fair and would benefit my son. As time has gone on I see the amazing young man my son has become and I can look in the mirror and be proud that somewhere along the way I did something right. Even tho our paths may never cross as you stated I am hoping that mabey one day they will. Would love to chat to you about my son and here your thoughts also.
Thank you again, your words on my son inspired me to keep going, and doing what I have been.

Tracy Robidoux
(Chris Robidoux's Mom)

Anonymous said...

Thank You! I just read this re-posted in Australia's Down Syndrome journal, which I hardly ever read because there's something about it which just seems to limit my daughter's future dreams. Your letter made me cry, with hope, hope that this is what I can achieve as a parent. Thanks you so much for seeing what you did in your conversation with that young man - I also hope that as a teacher, I can have your perceptiveness too.