I tend to think of Max as a kid who needs help: from me and Dave, from teachers, from therapists, even from Sabrina. His hand and arm muscles are impaired by the cerebral palsy; sometimes they're stiff, sometimes they're weak, so much so that grasping a crayon takes serious effort. Max requires assistance with pretty much anything involving self-care, from getting dressed to using the bathroom, as well as stuff like going up and down stairs and getting in and out of cars. I've been so focused on helping Max that I've never given much thought to him as a helper, and how awesome that could be for inflating his confidence, until recently.
It started with an email from Max's teacher. At lunch that day, she told me, Max had helped a classmate clean up her desk, then held her hand to steady her as she went to throw out a napkin. "Children always seem to recognize when someone else could use some extra help," she wrote.
Then I found out from the school speech therapist that Max has been teaching another girl in his class how to use the Proloquo2Go speech app. Lately he is quite the helper, apparently (and a ladies' man).
This weekend, I interviewed a new occupational therapist. She asked how Max helps out around the house, and I didn't have much to say. We've been lax about giving him chores. He cleans up in the playroom after he's been in there and sometimes, he'll help make his bed. If I'm baking, he'll help mix; if I'm cooking spaghetti (like, all the time!) he helps break the strands in half. That's pretty much it. I don't expect him to do chores regularly the way I expect Sabrina to, and that's not doing Max any favors. Just the opposite, actually (special needs parent epiphany #25,379).
The OT pointed out that small things, like letting Max set the table, are good for his fine-motor skills. She also mentioned how empowering it can be, not to mention the idea of teaching him responsibility. Max may have disabilities, but there is no reason we shouldn't hold him up to certain standards. He needs that. He deserves that.
We are spending next week in a condo at the beach, a fine time to teach Max how to make fresh pasta noodles, haul out the trash and pay our bills online. OK, for real, it'll be a good chance to get him to set the table, toss stuff into laundry, and scoop chocolate ice-cream into a dish. Max loves hearing "Good job, Max!" and I'm sure he'll be pleased to help out. And to serve himself ten scoops of chocolate ice-cream.
I know pitching in will help Max feel great about his abilities. When Max can do something well, he does it repeatedly and often, one reason he loves to zoom around on this green tractor he's just about outgrown. He's mastered steering it. He's nailed pedaling it. And he just wants to keep doing it and doing it.
Like anyone, Max takes pride in stuff he's good at. I think more chores could be a great thing. For all of us. [Insert evil parental laughter here.]