CANADA: Living Outside The Comfort Zone

CANADA: Living Outside The Comfort Zone

I wake up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom. I tiptoe past my son’s bedroom, but in spite of it being about two in the morning, he is awake.

“Mommy!” I hear him whisper.

I go in, thankful that he finally understands the importance of not talking out loud while the family is sleeping. As I tuck him in, he reaches a hand up and touches my face.

“Lie down with Mommy on the bed,” he says, in his peculiar speech pattern and his even more peculiar voice that is teetering between boy and man registers.

Knowing that he will not get to sleep again without a cuddle, I promise to be back. I quickly use the bathroom, return to my son’s room and lie down beside him. We lie there for maybe a minute before he whispers again.

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too,” I reply.

“Good night. Have beautiful dreams,” he mumbles, giving me a gentle but unmistakable shove. By the time I’m walking out of his room, he is fast asleep.

As I make my way to my own bed, I think about my son, about how far he has come and how far he still needs to go. He is twelve years old now, sprinting down the home stretch toward his teenage years. Nine years ago, almost to the day, he was diagnosed with autism.

Back then, when he was almost four, the only functional words in his vocabulary were “juice” and “pee”. He needed assistance with every single aspect of his daily living – toileting, getting dressed, eating, brushing teeth. Grocery store meltdowns were common, and washing my son’s hair could reduce him to a state of terror. Haircuts were absolutely out of the question.

Today, my son talks. Not a lot – not enough to have more than the most rudimentary of conversations – but he talks. He makes requests using full sentences, complete with “please” and “thank you”. He expresses emotions and makes jokes. He can pick out his own clothes, take a shower more or less by himself and even washes his hair. He hates it, but he understands that it has to be done. He can have haircuts now, even though I am the only one who can administer them and he keeps bunching his shoulders up.

As I look at him now and try to see into the future, I have no way of knowing what he will be capable of nine years from now. On the one hand, I don’t see him being able to live independently. He still lacks many life skills and, like many people with autism, he does not have an innate sense of danger and he does not know how to keep himself safe.

On the other hand, nine years ago I would not have foreseen the progress that he has made up to this point. I would not have thought that a kid who once had two usable words would be saying things like, “Have beautiful dreams”. So who knows what another nine years will bring?

We will only find out by continuing to steer him out of his comfort zone and into unknown territory.

How do you deal with challenges faced by your child? Do you wonder what your kids’ futures look like?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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INDONESIA: The Year of Living Dangerously

INDONESIA: The Year of Living Dangerously

living dangerouslyLast Sunday I ran my first 5K race. I still can’t believe that I actually did it – and in the tropical heat, no less. Although I have vaguely considered it a worthy goal, running an actual race wasn’t on my radar even two months ago.

It turns out that 2015 is the year of living dangerously…out of my comfort zone.

My kids often talk about being “risk-takers”. It is one of the ten traits included in the school Learner Profile and students are encouraged to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. While these traits are all deemed equally important, being a risk-taker is a concept that seems to be especially resonant outside of school too: “I am a risk-taker: I am willing to make mistakes. I am confident and have the courage to try new things.”

For my generally confident (and fruit-averse) daughter, this might mean: “Look Mommy, I’m a risk-taker, I’m eating a mango!” My son takes a more reflective approach – acknowledging when he feels nervous about doing something and emboldening himself with his risk-taker status to eventually take the plunge. Though risk-taking will probably have a different connotation when they are older, I embrace what it means for them now – trying new things and not being afraid to make mistakes.

It’s an important lesson for grown ups, too.

In January, after three years of living in Jakarta, I was starting to feel like my daily life was becoming somewhat routine. Gym, work, grocery store, repeat. To change things up, I found myself saying YES to things that I might not usually consider.

When a friend asked if I wanted to join their early morning running group, I said YES. I knew that the group would likely be too advanced for me but figured that I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked myself. I would walk, that’s it. I did walk some at first, but I set my own goals and improved each week. Now we’re training for a 10K.

When another friend asked if I would like to be part of their dance group for an upcoming fashion show event, I said yes to that too. Other friends and even my husband were surprised. Performing a dance routine in front of a huge crowd is WAY beyond my comfort zone, but again I thought: “Why not?” In this case I try not to think about the worst that could happen (falling off the stage comes to mind) but I’m proud of myself for doing it and am actually looking forward to the big night.

I’ve continued with the YES theme in other areas of my life and have already seen positive changes: improved health, new friendships, new possibilities. I’ve realized that pushing my boundaries in this way is also about adjusting my own perceptions of myself. “Oh, but I’m not a runner,” I would repeatedly explain, trying to somehow qualify my actions.

Well now I am a runner. And a dancer. Among many other things.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Our kids may not recognize some of the bigger risk-taking decisions we’ve made (like moving our lives halfway around the world), but it’s often the smaller actions that resonate the most.  

It feels good for them to see that I can be a risk-taker too – I can be afraid sometimes and I can also be brave, just like they are. 

When I walked in the door after the race, finisher’s medal around my neck, both kids jumped up from the couch with wide eyes. “Mommy!” my daughter exclaimed, “I didn’t know you would win the race!”

Not exactly…but YES! In my own way, I did.

What risks are you putting out there for yourself this year? How are you embracing these challenges?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by our mom of twins in Jakarta, Indonesia, Shaula Bellour.

The image used in this post is attributed to the author.

Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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VIRGINIA, USA: Moving Family Around the World

Just because I am a list maker doesn’t mean I always have it all together. And just because I check things off the list, on-time, and double-check each list, doesn’t mean I’m able to feel calm and confident. Not when it comes to moving my whole life and family half way around the world it doesn’t. No. Last week, I satisfactorily ticked off items on my list for moving to Vientiane, Laos from Washington DC, USA. This week, I feel nervous and uncertain about every single aspect of our lives that will change.

It’s the things that you can’t tick off of lists, uncontrollable unpredictable things, that throw you out of your comfort zone and force you to surrender to new and different ways of going about the business of everyday life. It all works out in the end, sometimes even for the better. Yet you end up feeling off kilter having to tilt your head sideways to feel balanced while it’s happening. Eventually, life is normalized again and your posture corrects itself. But this takes time.

So what do I do to stay grounded during this period of high anxiety? I try to accomplish the things I CAN do, focus on the things that I have control over. Like my lists. Read on if you’d like to get a sense of my world at the moment, in all it’s wanderlust and jet-setting glamor. (more…)

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

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