A Lesson from Mr. Miyagi

Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?”

I got to thinking about this quote today.  It started with something so simple.  Christopher got involved in an after school club this year called S.O.P.E. (Save Our Planet Earth).  They meet one Thursday a month from 3 to 4 PM.  Today’s meeting happened to coincide with the afternoon that Michael was to meet his new ABA therapist.  I had promised to be home at 4:30 to meet them, and I had an afternoon parent-teacher conference at 3:00 to boot.  I had mentioned to Christopher that, unfortunately, he could only stay at his meeting until 3:30.  When my conference was over, I went down to the science lab to pick him up and then to head to Michael’s after-school program.  He was so interested in the interactive movie they were watching and sharing popcorn with his friends that I felt bad making him leave.  I decided that even though it was going to be inconvenient (and I’d been wearing high heeled boots since 7 AM that I was ready to take off already) I’d go pick up Michael, and then come back as quickly as possible to get Christopher.  As I walked out to my car to drive to Michael’s school, I truly realized the magnitude (to me, anyway) of this decision.  What message would Christopher get, no matter how subtle, if I made him leave his club early?  “Sorry, honey, but Michael and his therapy come first.”  Do I EVER want that thought to even approach the transom of his mind?  Never.   Christopher is an amazing kid.  The things that he does for his brother are mind-blowing.  But I also have to constantly remember that he is a child and he deserves to have the same normal and happy experiences as anyone else.  When he looks back on his childhood many years from now, I want him to have the same feelings that I have – joy.   I never want him to feel that he ever had to miss out on anything  – not even a club meeting – because of his brother.

At this moment, my classroom is probably a fire hazard with all the piles of paper that haven’t been graded.  At another time in my life, I’d be tearing my hair out worrying about it.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do love teaching and I work hard from 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM  (and plenty of hours beyond that).  I care deeply about the progress my students are making and I try to do all I can to ensure their success. I’ve come to a realization, though.  Right now, my top priority is my family.  These are precious years that I realize are slipping by so quickly.   Christopher asked if he could have some coffee one morning before school (we let him have tiny bit on the weekends – it’s more like cream & sugar with a drop of coffee).  I told him that no, coffee is for adults.  His response was “Well, can I have HALF a cup since I’m halfway to being an adult?”  Wow – now that was a shock to the system!

I have a therapist that I myself see a few times a month.  I’m not ashamed to say that.  It’s not the first time in my life that I’ve talked to someone about things in my life that are overwhelming.  BUT, it is the first time in my adult life that someone has truly helped me to put those things into a format that I can handle emotionally.  As a person who holds a college minor in dance, I know how important balance is.  I’m glad to have it back in my life and I hope and pray it’s here to stay.

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Just feelin’ the love…..

As Mike discussed in his touching blog entry, it’s difficult to convey the happiness and joy that Michael can bring when you are not with him every day.  This past Sunday, Mike had to head out for a few hours and the boys and I sat around all morning in our pajamas.  Chris was off playing his Xbox, while I sat in the living room watching “Oklahoma”.  When Michael heard all the music and saw the dancing, he immediately ran over to watch it in my lap.  While Laurie, Curly, and Aunt Eller sang about livin’ in a brand new state, I sat with my little boy while he giggled and snuggled with me for almost a straight hour.  Although, I knew I had more pressing things to do like make a grocery list, fold laundry, and take a shower, I allowed myself to enjoy this time with him.  And I know he loved it, too.  No, he doesn’t tell me in words – he doesn’t have to.

I’d love to tell you the rest of our Sunday went as smoothly.  I’d love to tell you he was happy and cooperative the rest of the day.  I’d love to say that we went to Running Buddies (his sports program) that afternoon and he cooperated and stretched with the others, ran right alongside his buddy, and didn’t spend every single second trying to figure out how to get away from everyone and go back to the playground.  I’d really love to say that – but I can’t.  At one point, Michael’s buddy came over to the table where three of us moms sit and enjoy our one hour Sunday hiatus.  His question?  “How do I get Michael to pay attention and focus more?”  I could see my two friends faces start to puff up as they tried to stifle their laughs.  The question of the century.  The poor kid; I didn’t even know where to start.  But the hour finally came to an end, I thanked his buddy profusely and finally allowed Michael some time to go on his beloved swing.  After a few minutes, it was time to pack up.  I thought this particular episode of “Battle of Wills: Running Buddies Edition” had come to an end.  But the second Michael got off the swing (and this session of running is over mind you) he decided to go for a sprint since he saw chips that another group had laid out under one of the pavilions for some kind of cookout.  This pavilion was a GOOD 100 feet away.  How his little spidey-sense picked that up, I have no idea.  Maybe I’ll bring a bag of chips next time and his buddy can dangle them in front of him like the little mechanical rabbit that goes around the track during the dog races.  Needless to say, that whole episode had me completely stressed out.  But during our ride home, I turned on the radio, watched Michael dancing in the backseat, and felt myself begin to relax.  I told myself to let it go.  Instead of letting it keep me angry and upset, I let myself enjoy the music and smile at how much my little guy enjoyed it, too.   Make no mistake, I was still exhausted when I got home and Mike took over Michael-duty for the evening.

Fast forward to Monday morning.  I’m sitting down to have a bowl of cereal and Christopher hands me a pile of papers he’d brought home from school on Friday.  Everything looks great as usual (yes, that was a brag – sorry!), and then I come upon a religon test.  All of the answers are correct, and I see the word “Wonderful!” written in bright pink ink about halfway down the back of the test.  The instructions for one particular item were to “Draw a picture or write a poem that will help you to express your faith in God”.  In the slightly sloppy printing of a nine-year-old, this is what I see

At church I pray to you deeply, I think about all you’ve given me.  I trust you to help my brother, I ask that you let my brother be safe.  I thank you for helping me when I’m sick and for giving us all your Son.

Yes, tears, right into my Fiber One Caramel Crunch.  I asked him at least three times “Did YOU really write this?  Did someone help you?”  I’m sure glad I’m doing something right.

Life is not perfect.  It’s a long bumpy road ahead.  But I have so much for which to be thankful.  I used to be someone who dwelled on negativity.  “Why me?  Why my child?  Why can’t my life be like his/hers?”  And there are going to be days like that now and forevermore.  But those days are beginning to have wider spaces and every day I find another reason to love the life I have.

The Boy Nobody Sees-by Guest Blogger Mike Enlow

First, a thank you to Jen for letting me write this blog entry. I don’t think that I would write enough to have my own blog, but from time to time there are things that I’d like to share too. 

I’m used to the looks now. Sometimes it’s a look of annoyance, sometimes a look of confusion, sometimes a look of sympathy, sometimes it’s a look of pity. I’m used to all the looks I receive when I’m with Michael somewhere or when someone is at our house visiting. In general I think that people mean well and most people are very warm and loving toward Michael. Still, I can’t help but feel like they’re thinking “Wow, I can’t imagine dealing with him every day.” 

When Michael is out in public or there are unfamiliar people in our house, he can become very agitated. This manifests itself in many different odd behaviors such as obsessing about fans, making strange noises, running away, biting himself, turning lights on and off, and others. That’s when the looks come. I know what people are thinking, some variation of “Oh, poor Jen, she can’t watch Christopher’s baseball game because Michael is being disruptive” or “why is that boy stomping his feet so loudly in the store, I think there’s something wrong with him. His poor dad.”  Because Michael gets agitated around other people, other people only see Michael when he’s agitated.

I get to see Michael though when nobody else is around. I get to see Michael when he’s waiting at the door for me when I get home from work. Everyday I know that he’ll be the first one to greet me. I get to see Michael when he tries to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep by curling up next to me in the morning. I get to take Michael to school everyday and make him laugh, or go over his letters and numbers with him. I’m the one who is sitting on the couch when Michael comes over smiling and laughing and pushes my IPad away because he wants to play. I’m the one who sees the big smile on Michael’s face as he hands me my shoes because he wants to take a walk together. I’m the one who can’t say “no” to Michael when he’s waiting at the door because he knows I’m leaving the house and he wants to come with me wherever I’m going.I’m the one who he hugs and kisses each night as I tuck him in. Nobody makes me laugh as much as Michael and nobody warms my heart even half as much.

I wish that everybody could see the boy that I get to see every day.