Monday, December 14, 2009
My new kind of happy: It's all about the small stuff
On Saturday, I took Sabrina to a birthday party for one of her friends, and noticed an adorable little boy wearing the kind of foot braces Max has. I started chatting with his mom in that instantly candid way you can be with other moms of kids with special needs. Within five minutes, as children around us painted and giggled and dashed around, she told me her son was a preemie, and had mild cerebral palsy. I told her Max had a stroke at birth and also had mild cp. We kept chatting. "I'm grateful for every thing he can do," she said.
I knew exactly what she meant, of course. I take nothing for granted with Max. Nothing. I mean, tonight, my homeboy and I were hanging in bed watching Hip Hop Harry, his latest TV obsession, and all of a sudden I noticed Max scratching his cheek. Only he was doing it with his pointer finger. This is a major deal for Max, to isolate his finger that way, since usually his fingers are held tight together.
It made me happy.
I've been thinking a lot about the topic lately since I'm reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is an incredibly inspiring, engaging, funny, real, eye-opening book, based on Gretchen's popular blog of the same name. She spent a year testing out different research and theories on achieving happiness, boiling it down to everyday stuff anyone can do. It might be the most helpful book on the topic you'll ever read. It is that good.
Max has redefined what happiness means to me. Before he came along, happiness usually meant a big chunk of pleasure—a vacation, a promotion, buying my first place. Through Max, I have come to appreciate the little joys. Of watching him color, something he only got into this year. Of making him giggle when I chase him around the house. Of seeing his eyes light up when we're out and he spots something purple and exclaims, "UR-UL!" "UR-UL!" Of the wicked grin he gets on his face when he's teasing his sister (I know, it is so wrong of me to be happy about that but I can't help it). Of watching him struggle to try and do something, like pick up a toy, until he figures out a way. Of the beautiful mess he makes when he holds an ice-cream all by himself and eats it. Of the squeal he lets out when he's careening down our street in his jeep as I beg, "Slow down, Maaaaaaaax!!!!!!" (I think he's more amused by my pleading than by the speed.)
Obviously, kids have a way of making you appreciate the "small moments," as Gretchen calls them. But I think those small moments are even more bliss-inducing when you have a kid with special needs. Not that Max (or Sabrina) provide the only small joys I have in my life. Sunday morning, I got to take a long-ish shower; I blasted the shower radio and sang along to The Kinks' "Come Dancing," and that made me happy. As I wrote this I downed three chocolate-coated Oreos, and they made me happy. Then Dave walked in and gave me a neck massage. He gets happiness pointers for trying, but my knotted-up neck is a sorry excuse for a neck right now. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Hip Hop Harry doesn't make me particularly happy, though watching Max try to breakdance does.
So, my friends, here's to those mini bursts of bliss. What has your child done lately that's made you happy that way?