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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GREECE: New Lessons From Rediscovered Friends

GREECE: New Lessons From Rediscovered Friends

Berlin064 - CopyA truly marvelous thing happened to me this month. Or perhaps more accurately, it was a series of interconnected events. Thanks to social media, I have reconnected with some of my closest friends from the past after a gap of about three decades. This has been a real roller coaster ride of fluctuating emotions. Rediscovering these special people from my childhood has triggered highs of emotions that I don’t remember experiencing since giving birth to my children.

Comparing our stories and memories of shared events has caused me to experience a real epiphany: people don’t always see us in the same way we see ourselves. For me this has caused real joy…and relief!

Since leaving England to live in southern Europe I have tried my best to reinvent myself. I wanted to leave behind the troubled child and young woman who never felt comfortable in her own skin, who was complex to an extreme degree because she was motherless from six years old and fatherless from 15. The memories of holiday gatherings and celebrations where I felt awkward and depressed were pretty difficult to shake off. The flighty attention seeking behaviour I used to exhibit as a teen has terrorised me over the years during many a losing battle with insomnia. It is true to say that I’m fairly embarrassed about the teenage girl I once was.

Although a good student and very quiet during lessons, the breaks/recess were a completely different story. I remember being loud and pretty flirtatious…yes, that makes me really blush now! It was my way of trying to get some of the attention I was desperately lacking at home. Quite simply, I don’t feel proud of the teenager I was. The memory I have imprinted of that time was OTT or Over The Top.

The staggering thing for me this month has been to learn that after three decades of avoiding trips down memory lane, those closest to me didn’t see things in the same way. One of my friends described me as being “witty, smart and knowing how things worked.” Another ‘bestie’ told me she found me funny, fun to be with and pretty mysterious as I didn’t like to talk about my family life.

Really? That’s how they saw me? Playful and teasing but NOT anywhere near as bad as I thought?

I have avoided going to reunions for all these decades because I was embarrassed to ‘inflict’ myself on my old schoolmates?

Wow! If only I had known all this earlier! I’m sure I would have been a much more confident young woman with a much brighter self image!

One of these old friends stayed up until the wee hours of the morning last night to scan and send me photos of our school exchange trip to Berlin, Germany, in the late 80’s. I realised that even after all these years good, decent kids usually remain good, decent adults and GREAT friends, too!

My message to you is keep tight hold of your childhood buddies and those closest to you. At some point down the road when you look back on your life, it is those people who will reaffirm the good in you and show you how others see us. These ‘treasures’ are priceless especially to those with low self-esteem.

Encourage your kids to keep up the ties they are forming now, and GO TO SCHOOL REUNIONS!

How many of you still keep contact with best friends from childhood? Do you think that you see yourself the same way as those closest to you, or do you tend to be more self-critical?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ann Marie Wraight of Greece. Photo credit to the author.

Ann Marie Wraight

Having lived in 4 different countries, Ann Marie finds it difficult to give a short answer about where she's from. She regards herself: Brit by birth, Aussie by nature, with a sprinkling of Greek and German based on her insatiable appetite for tasty food and chilled beer! This World Mom has been married to her Greek soulmate for 16 years and they are the proud but constantly challenged parents of two overactive teenage boys. (She secretly wonders sometimes if she was given the wrong babies when she left the maternity clinic.) She can't explain the fascination and ability that her 13 and 14 year-olds show in math and physics or that both boys are ranked 1st and 2nd nationally in judo. Ann Marie can only conclude that those years of breastfeeding, eating home cooked meals and home tutoring really DO make a difference in academic and physical performance! The family is keeping its fingers crossed that---with the awful economic crash in Greece---continued excellence in math and/or judo will lead to university scholarships... In addition to writing, enjoying a good glass of wine and movies, Ann Marie also works as a teacher and tends their small, free-range farm in the Greek countryside.

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