Monday, October 3, 2011

Happiness is a $15 wooden duck bought at a crafts fair

Max is going to be 9 in two months. It is really, really hard to believe.

Like many moms, I don't want my baby to grow up. And yet, I do want Max to grow up, and forge ahead developmentally.

I know that Max is perfectly content with himself. I know, too, that progress happens at Max's pace. I can coax him along, get him lots of therapy, work with his teachers to best help Max learn. But you can't fast-forward a child.

So what I try to do is savor the sweet, little-kid stuff he's still got instead of worrying about why it's still there. I don't always succeed.

This weekend, we went to a crafts fair. Max wanted us to buy him a wooden duck you could wheel around, with rubber feet that went "Splat! Splat! Splat!" on the pavement. It was a pretty cool duck, as far as wooden ducks go.

So we got him the duck, and Max fell in love. He walked it around for hours. He even made sure the duck was fed.

Grass, not spaghetti.

He also made sure the duck "bit" Sabrina's foot.

Practically every person who walked by smiled at Max and his duck. Then I heard some woman say, "Why, isn't he the cutest thing!" and I had a flash of "Max is too old to be doing this." I thought about other kids Max's age, who probably wouldn't want to roll a duck around town. Even Sabrina, who's 6 and who typically wants everything Max has, didn't ask for a turn. I started wondering whether he might still be rolling that duck around years from now.

I took out my mental mallet and pounded those thoughts down. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bad thoughts! Because this was our reality: Max was having the best time with that duck. Me, I could choose to worry, or I could choose to savor his happiness.

I chose happiness.


  1. Hi Ellen

    unfortunately, I can't find the following cartoon on the web, you'll have to take my word for it ...
    F. K. Waechter, one of the greatest German comic artists, has a cartoon finguring a little boy, his unhappy father and a wooden duck. Boy asks duck what they can do for Daddy. No answer from duck. Boy follows dad into the shack and says "I think he's found out by himself". Cue last panel where dad is crafting himself a wooden duck just like Max's.

    Sorry, am not very good at retelling jokes.
    Off to make leaf masks with the kids

  2. "So what I try to do is savor the sweet, little-kid stuff he's still got instead of worrying about why it's still there. I don't always succeed."

    That's it. Right there.

    And I love the comment above.

  3. Hi Ellen,
    Maybe all kids secretly like younger kid stuff, but with Max, it's more apparent. At least it's one less noise he minds and with his hands he can grip the string, and it gives him an opportunity to walk around.-

  4. Loving the concept of a mental mallet to squelch those thoughts we just can't help having.

    It's funny, I was thinking as I looked at the first picture that Max is totally transitioning from being "cute" to a really handsome little boy. I'd challenge anyone not to smile at the sight of that happiness.

  5. You've mentioned his innocence. Perhaps this is just a lack of inhibition on his part. The issue may not be that he wants to play with a duck, but that the rest of us feel like we can't play with a duck.

    Just take a look at a family gathering with gifts at who is playing with the toys.

    I sometimes get annoyed that I don't have children because I "can't" go do kids' things like water parks, tobogganing etc. The enjoyment is still there!

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, I think I could actually enjoy playing with a duck for a while.

  6. Valerie, mostly, I choose happiness—or at least I want to choose happiness. Sometimes, I choose to worry/wallow despite my best intentions.

    Anne, cute cartoon! And leaf masks sounds like fun.

    Jaida: I'll tell Max you said so. :)

    And Anon, I absolutely love your perspective. Thank you for that.

  7. you're right to be joyful about the little boy you have rather than mourning the one you haven't got.

  8. There's something about old-fashioned toys-- more charm. Max has good taste. I think all toys eventually lose their novelty, though, right? What the pictures made me wonder was whether he'd enjoy a live pet. He's having so much fun with his new pal. (I know a pet is a lot of work, though. Or maybe you guys already have pets.)

    :) Just Ducky

  9. Sometimes we all just need to live in the moment.

  10. huh...he'd be popular with the college set too- something son wore a gorilla suit to walmart not on halloween for fun

  11. Beautiful post, Ellen. And by the way, that is one truly cute little wooden duck :)

  12. "So what I try to do is savor the sweet, little-kid stuff he's still got instead of worrying about why it's still there. I don't always succeed."

    Good for you Ellen live in the present and all will be alright :)

  13. Yeah! I love the duck and the smile and the fun. Took my son to the library to get books for a project on middle ages. He got those books then asked if he could get some Richard Scary books. He's in middle school. I said, sure but you have to keep them at home. We compromise. I save that he is still enthusiastic about those things but continues to grow and enjoy age appropriate things. Who am I to say no, you can't get the baby books? great post, great pics.

  14. I think a disability like Max's is so hard because it's so imprecise and uncertain. I know a mom whose son is blind. She doesn't have to go around thinking that well maybe his vision really is there, it just hasn't developed yet, or the testing isn't finding the vision that's there. No. He can't see. Done. She can be comfortable with where he is because it's such an immutable fact. But with a developmental disabilty you can't know exactly where he is or will be and when you are hit with evidence of "well this really is where he is" it's harder to just be in the place where you are at the moment.

  15. I loved this post & I'm pretty sure it's because it really hit home with me. I have a daughter who has autism & she has always loved toys, movies, etc. that are geared towards younger kids. For years I would worry that people would make comments along the lines of "don't you think she's a bit old for that?". Finally this year I came to the realization that I shouldn't care what they think because she truly gets enjoyment out of these things. I want her to be happy and I don't care anymore if what makes her happy makes other people uncomfortable. It's not like I'm letting her run naked through the shopping mall.

    This summer she said she really wanted to go see the new Winnie the Pooh movie. She will be 13 in December. She was by far the oldest kid there, but I'm sure she had the BEST time of any of them. She sang the loudest and laughed the hardest. It did wonders for my spirit.

    Thanks for sharing your heart!

  16. I think Kyle (9) will still be into Cars and McQueen and Mater when he is 20, and that's ok if it makes him happy! I'd take happy any day over cranky.
    I would however like him to progress in potty training more. That I could live with!
    Julie C

  17. You just gotta stop worrying about stuff like that, Ellen. Max is on his OWN path, not your's, not Dave's, not Sabrina's. Swing that mallet often--Max is on his own road and his own timeline, like we all are. People would pay for the happiness he got from that doggone duck!

    I'm sad that my kids don't use their sweatsock puppets like they used to; they are in a box in the back of the closet and will probably go to the attic before too long. They were fun while they lasted, though (and they lasted for years).

  18. There are plenty of grown men who still play with Legos. Also, might he be recalling this, which showed up on your blog as a related post:


  19. I say, good for you. We all derive happiess in different forms. And you know what? Just by looking at the pictures you posted, he is the cutest little thing with that duck. :) It's too bad we all can't easily find joy in the smaller things in life.

  20. The duck is really cool, I'd play with it!
    I saw somethng that made me think of Max yesterday, purple taro flavoured noodles at my local Asian supermarket. I'm very tempted to send Max a packet, but I think it would cost a lot from the UK. I did find a blog post about them though.

  21. I may be late to the party about the duck here...but my sister got used to run around her college campus with her friends and her duck. She still has it at her post-college house. I think the joy of the duck knows no bounds!


Thanks for sharing!

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