21st Birthday and Life Lessons
December 15, 2010
Sunday, celebrating with family.
Today, my bright boy is 21 and half my age. Half my life has been spent with my son, and so today’s birthday is a milestone in more than one way.
When he was five and first begun on a string of meds that included ritalin, clonodine and risperdal (zoloft before the risperdal), we were told by that particular psychiatrist (who threw out diagnoses like PDD, ADHD, and bipolar and yet never apparently put the boy through any objective assessment) that the best we could hope for would be a group home placement, followed with a string of can’ts. This pronouncement was given to us by the psychologist in a bleak tone, one that made Rick and me redouble our efforts with our son to prove that his life would not be a string of never-gonnas.
Over the years and a string of psychologists who made pronouncements on high (he’ll never read–he did, though), I learned several things: no one knows the future, motivation matters, focusing on the cans makes for a far happier life, and sometimes those never-gonnas are real, but what we make of it matters more than the actual never-gonnas do.
We define ourselves by how others define us. If we in turn define our children by all the things they cannot do, they will learn that they cannot do these things and won’t even try. They will see themselves as incapable and less than. If we focus, as parents, on all the things we’ll never have because of our children’s can’ts, then our children will learn that they are responsible for our happiness and fulfillment, and that because they have all those can’ts, they are less than.
I choose, our family chooses, to define our children, all of them, by their cans while acknowledging that there are somethings that each child needs assistance with. We do not measure the needs-help-with negatively; it’s moved from a can’t to a needs-help-with, and our three children see no shame in needing help and no cause for superiority in being able to provide assistance.
Today is my bright boy’s 21st birthday and it is a joyous day.
Bobby’s life is filled with cans.
He can walk his uncle’s dog partway down the road and back.
He can cook hot dogs by himself and help with meals.
He can volunteer one morning a week at the animal shelter.
He can attend the day center and help serve lunch.
He can help his grandmother with her bird room, with getting groceries in, with moving boxes for decorating.
He can read books about Egyptian hieroglyphs and vampires and whatever takes his fancy, although he doesn’t understand it all.
He can write a thank you note and sign it Robert Shane Wombles (always).
He can play video games with his sisters and spend hours with them talking about all sorts of things they have in common.
He can help with the laundry, the housework, and taking care of the cats.
He can get righteously angry when he sees an injustice.
He can laugh loudly at a joke when he gets it.
He can talk for hours about Batman, Yu-gi-oh, Bakugon, chupacapbra, and vampires. For hours. Seriously. Hours.
He can smile so that it shatters my heart with its brilliance.
Happy birthday, son!