Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Give your Child Time to Blossom

I love gardening. I'm not a professional, but there's just something so exhilarating about seeing growth and progress over a period of time, and knowing that my own hard work helped create that—I water, I fertilize, I tend, I protect, and I let mother nature do the rest.

Last spring, I was really ambitious. I bought 8 different berry bushes and had them shipped to my home. They were basically sticks with roots attached. I planted them in pots with good soil, watered them, and watched all summer as they slowly took shape. The vines began to grow, leaves sprouted, and we didn't get berries this year, but I hoped that I could keep them alive during the winter to see them grow again. I worried when they lost all the little leaves and appeared to be dead in their pots, and hoped my investment wasn't in vain.

Last fall, we bought three fruit trees: a peach, pear, and orange to add to our young pomegranate tree. We made sure to plant them very carefully with room for the roots to grow. They lost all their leaves during the winter. I could only hope that they would thrive again in the springtime, and the only way to find out was to wait.

So I waited through the colder days of winter and watched. Many days and even weeks went by where I didn't give those bushes or trees a single thought--they all sat there lifeless in our yard. Toward the end of January, I went outside to look at the berry bushes in pots and noticed their roots had extended into the dirt below through the drainage holes. They were still growing, though they appeared completely dead. The proof was in the roots. And soon after that, our fruit trees grew tiny buds. Life was still happening despite all the deadness. To me, it is a miracle, this cycle of life in nature. And with our own children, we can see miracles, too, though at times, we might feel like their progress is dead as the winter.

Even when it seems like your child is not making progress, remember: growth is still happening. After the dead of winter, a tree will blossom. Give your child time to blossom.

Parenting special needs children means you have to give great care and attention. Yes, mother nature is helping, but the watering, fertilizing, and tending are often doubled--and it's often done by more than just the parents—doctors, therapists, special teachers, case workers, specialists, extended family can all lend a hand. But the biggest factor in change will be inside themselves--there's only so much you can do. We can give them roots, but they need to blossom on their own.

My three children have each needed extra care. My oldest, on the autism spectrum, had to be taught many times to learn a new skill. While other children might blossom after a gentle gleam of sunlight and a trickle of rain, she would need full sun and rainstorms. I still remember when she was a little toddler and motor skills were a challenge. After intense physical therapy and working with her at home myself, she blossomed into a walking girl at 20 months old. No matter that she did it later than her peers--she has her own life cycle she's following, and though it was hard for me to be patient, I had to let her bloom on her own time.

Soon after her walking took off, I began to notice that other body movements did not come naturally to her. Stepping off of curbs or walking down stairs was frightening to her. At the playground, she couldn't figure out how to climb a small ladder to get to the slide. So I worked with her, every day, putting my hand over her hand, then my hand over her foot, guiding her, teaching her the movement of climbing a ladder until it became natural to her. There were dead periods during this time, where I felt like my efforts were in vain, like I was looking at a dead tree with no life or hope of progress. All I could do was hold on to the hope that the little things I was doing with her every day were somehow adding up inside that tiny body of hers, and that when the winter of this learning season passed, she would bud and bloom. And one day, it happened--she climbed the ladder without my help. It was so sudden, quite like how the blooms on a tree seem like they would never come, but then one day, they're there. Growth was happening, on the inside. It was up to her to bloom, and she did.

A similar experience happened with my youngest, who was born with a cleft palate. We were told that he would probably not need speech therapy after his palate repair surgery and ear tubes were placed, but soon after his first birthday, his speech began to regress. I feared autism, but it turned out that the ear tubes had fallen out, and after they were placed again, his ENT recommended speech therapy to help him catch up.

So when he was 18 months old, we began speech therapy. I would take him once a week, and watch as the trained speech therapist worked with him and listened to the sounds he would make. We began to see that some of his sounds were coming out nasally--a common thing among children born with cleft palate. The therapist would help him focus on one sound at a time until he could say it right. First it was "D." And after taking him to therapy for months, there was still little progress—a dead spell, where I felt like maybe this therapy wasn't paying off. But then one day, he blossomed. He spoke the "D" sound correctly, like it came out of nowhere. Those little roots were growing all that time. And again, it was up to him to bloom. We helped him plant the roots, and he showed the fruit of our efforts beautifully. After that, there was no stopping him. He mastered sound after sound. Currently, he is in a dead period with the "S" sound. But I don't doubt the roots are growing fine on that one, and that he will blossom in his own time.

Growing a garden is a lot like raising children. It takes patience, planning, effort, care, and nurturing. But most of all, it takes hope, and willingness to never give up on the little things that will eventually grow from all the effort. The blossoms will come and the joy will be great--even greater than the joy of seeing new life sprout in my backyard.

1 comment:

  1. You used the perfect analogy in your post. Raising kids with special needs is like gardening and proceeds at its own pace. Thanks for adding this to DifferentDream.com's Tuesday special needs link up.