Consider, please, that J is 21. He is signed up for Selective Service, he can buy alcohol (which he doesn’t like,) porn (which I’m sure he’d enjoy) and cigarettes (the smell of which he finds disgusting.) He can go into the movie theater and watch any movie he wants…no restrictions.
And now, drumroll, he can tie his shoes.
Is it done prettily? No. Is it done quickly? No. Is it done without an intense look of concentration? No. But it’s done.
Not bad, I think, for a couple of people that the world assumes spend their whole day twiddling their thumbs. No, dagnabbit, we get stuff done…and that stuff, right now, is shoe-tying.
Don’t ask me how it happened. I’m pretty sure that it was as close to Eliza Dolittle surprising Professor Higgins by properly pronouncing and enunciating her way through “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”
First one shoe…then another. After years of trying and trying, and failing and failing….
You know how people say “in the end it was anti-climatic?” It wasn’t. It really, really wasn’t. Two days running, it still isn’t. We actually celebrate it every time he does it. It’s almost up there with when he finally got potty-trained at the age of eight. It’s a big, big, BIG deal.
I am sure that people think we do very little when we’re here all day. I know this because people often complain that I don’t answer their calls, e-mails, text messages, and don’t have “time to hang out” with them. I am tempted to do an auto-reply on my e-mail and text, change our voicemail greeting, and have a t-shirt made that reads “trust me, we’re doing important stuff.”
Life sometimes reminds us that we’re not just running on idle. Life sometimes throws us a little gift like this miraculous shoe-tying development. I would say we’re not worthy, but I firmly believe that we are because we try, people; we really really REALLY try.
In the middle of everything else (the tense negotiations about the PECS board, the echolalia that drives us to distraction) a little ray of “we haven’t been wasting our time” shines through, and J achieves something that truly makes him more independent. And he is proud of himself. This is not just about us not having to sit on the floor with his foot on our leg as we tie his shoes…this is about J being able to do a little more for himself.
Many of my friends announce their children’s achievements on Facebook. I think that’s tremendously cool. Moving away from home to start college, joining this or that organization, winning this or that competition. Even those friends who have kids with disabilities share their successes, and -believe me- I rejoice with them. I don’t feel envy, but I do have moments when I wonder “what would have J done if…”
I snap out of those. I know he’s doing a lot. I am aware of the effort he puts into everything he does. I am tremendously proud of him (even when it’s a “I have to say this X number of times to quell my anxiety) and I tell him all the time. He knows the sign for PROUD, and when I tell him I’m proud of him he smiles broadly. J knows. J is aware. J accepts the recognition, and he values the time we spend working because he knows he’s going to figure something useful out in the end.
It’s not that we don’t get frustrated. We do. Some days can feel long. Some hours spent working on a seemingly menial skill can feel even longer. We have moments when we both get upset and have to take a breather from each other. There are times when we set aside whatever it is we are trying to master (we…yes…not a royal we…both of us are trying to master it…he the learning, and I the teaching) so we can try again later…maybe much later…both of us refreshed and renewed.
We enter September with a new skill learned. It’s a biggie. We are thrilled. We are thankful. We feel empowered. On to the next thing! Bring it on! We can do this!!!!
Of course, we’ll have to stop dancing little random jigs to get on with whatever comes next, but -for now- let us bask in the glow of the shoe-tying.