Last night, I needed Max to occupy himself while I was putting an overtired Ben to bed. I suggested that he do some IXL, a website that makes practicing math, science, language arts and social studies fun; he enjoys doing fractions on it. Twenty minutes later, I emerged from Ben's room and stood in Max's doorway. He didn't see me there, watching him. I stared as he tapped the answers on his iPad screen, and I felt so thankful.
This sort of thing happens from time to time: I am suddenly filled with gratitude about what Max can do, because I can vividly recall the time when he couldn't.
As a tot, Dave and I needed to constantly engage Max. He couldn't yet grasp toys, hold balls or press buttons; he wasn't yet able to engage in pretend play. He wasn't a child we could leave alone in a room to play, have him play on the floor as we prepared dinner or get him to occupy himself in his room when he woke up early in the morning. It was consuming, exhausting and draining, all hands on deck at all times. Relief arrived only with visits from my mom, sister and sitters.
When you are in the thick of caring for a young child with special needs, you somehow think life will always be that way. I am not here to give false hope; every child is on his own trajectory, special needs or not. Children progress on their own time, in their own way and not necessarily in every way—but they progress in ways you can't imagine. Oh, how I wish I could tell the mom that was me 11 years ago, sitting on the floor of our playroom and wrapping Max's chubby little fingers around balls and pressing them onto the keys of pop-up toys, to rest assured that he would develop and change and that parenthood wouldn't always be so intense.
And I have never, ever stopped marveling at how Max, and life with him, has changed.
When Max sits in his room alone and plays with a fire truck, I'm thankful. When he vegges on a couch in the living room and watches TV, alone, I appreciate it. And when is immersed in doing math on his iPad—FOCUSING! DOING MATH! VOLUNTARILY! ENJOYING IT! TAPPING BUTTONS BY HIMSELF!—I am not just looking at a boy doing work. I am looking at where this boy came from...and where he will go.