Thursday, October 17, 2019

Take a selfie of yourself helping your child with disabilities: Here's why


Someone in my local moms group recently shared an awesome Facebook post that made sentimental. Mom Jess Wolf had posted a photo of herself with her children in a grocery store, and this caption:

Sweaty, baby strapped to my back, three year old insisting that her belly hurts and NEEDS her donut that she forgot to eat after lunch, 6 year old using everything in sight as a weapon, 7 year old wanting to spend the only dollar he has. This. This was my trip to the grocery today. While I was bagging up my groceries (thanks Aldi) and trying to quietly keep from losing my ever loving sh*t, the lady next to me asked if I have one of those phones that takes pictures. Trying not to convey my annoyance to someone else adding to the million questions that make up my day, I replied that, yes I do have one of those fancy phones. She asked to take a picture of me with the kids. At the grocery. Together. She told me that she wishes she had photos of herself doing every day things with her kids. She validated the fact that a simple grocery trip is hard. She told me that what I do matters. She doesn't miss what made the days hard, but she misses what made them sweet. I will always cherish this picture and the message that came with it.

As soon as I read it, I thought, SO true. I have plenty of photos of chubalicious baby Max, but none of the two of us doing the main everyday activity of his early life: therapy. Not. One. Single. Photo. All those hours I spent bicycling his little legs and massaging his arms and hands are only in my memory. All I've got is a faded Polaroid above of him and his beloved Early Intervention occupational therapist at a holiday party.

Back then, it would have never occurred to me to have Dave snap a shot of me helping Max along, or to snap a shot of Dave doing the same. For one, like the mom above, it was such a standard part of life that I didn't think twice about it. Also, Max's developmental struggles were anxiety-provoking to me, not something I'd want to record. Deep down, I wasn't ready to fully understand or embrace disability. I had this fantasy that he'd turn out to be "OK" and didn't want proof of my teaching him to crawl by crouching over him on the floor and moving his limbs for him, showing him how to hold a spoon, getting him to grasp a ball. This also explains the lack of early photos of him wearing his hand splints or foot braces.

Oh, man. How I wish I had some of those photos. To remind myself of just how far Max has come. And to serve as a reminder that me, myself and I helped him get there.

Max has progressed because of his own determination, motivation and sheer luck. Max has also come a long way because of me and Dave.

Do any of us give ourselves enough credit for all that we do for our children?

Nope.

When I was a new parent, I constantly ached to do more for Max and felt guilty about it; I couldn't accept that I was doing the best that I could. I lacked the perspective that Max would power through to milestones only when he and his body were truly ready, and that giving Max tools, support and lots and lots of love were the fuel that could help him progress.

Someday, like me, you will have a teen on your hand who has thrived and developed in ways you never thought possible. And you will wonder why you never snapped those photos. So moms and dads, I'm telling you: Take selfies of yourself doing therapy with your children, sitting together in the doctor's waiting room, helping them crawl or doing whatever it is you do. (Granted, it's hard to take a photo of yourself stalking the insurance company for not reimbursing you for therapies.) Know that you are doing a great job. Even if you don't feel it now, someday you will look at those photos and it will all be clear to you.


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