Finding the Balance/Contrast

This was the view outside my bedroom window today, while I tried to get some work done.

I have 2 kids on the Halloween Mid-term break this week and it is making me think about contrasts and finding a balance.

As you can see from the photograph there is a real beauty in contrast. We are having a really cold autumn, with short sunny spells that are bringing out the best in fall colours on our trees. Today it was cold, rainy and eventually snowy. But the crisp light of the afternoon showed up Sugarloaf Mountain looking stark and snowy, with the contrasting warmth of the trees in the foreground. The recently planted shrubbery of our fast-tracked-developer housing estate are putting in quite a good effort I think.

Staring at this late autumn scene one day, I thought about the contrasts and how they exist within us. They could make us seem a bit scratchy and jumpy, like a bad mixed tape that jumps from one song genre to another, but they can also make us more interesting people.

And yes, things need to tip a little one way, then another before they settle into a natural balance.

To explain this in human terms I am of course thinking of the contrast between our working selves and our family life, whether that includes children or not.

I am lucky in that my job was offered to me as a result of my experience with having 2 children with Autism, so they are naturally taken into account and allowances are made for me to plan around them.

But working from home I still feel that compulsion to live up to expectations and will find myself sorting through emails or trying to trick around with a picture for a webpage, when I should be parenting. I guess I am only at the beginning of finding the right balance there.

There is also balance to be found in the experience of having children with Special needs, especially autism. Autism is so nebulous and manifests in so many different shades; it is easy for parents to talk themselves into denial. They may work so hard at achieving what they perceive is "normality" for their child, that they miss the best aspects of their personality, including the autism. I wrote about this before here.

Other parents may accept the diagnosis totally, and then give up. In other words they believe the worst of what they are being told by the people with clipboards and white coats and then make little or no effort to change the outcome for their child. In their defence, they are following the advice of so called professionals who have been known to make throw away comments during the consultation such as "he will never marry", " she will never have children" or " you have another child, concentrate on them".

Now these are the same people who tell us to stop smoking because it causes heart disease and cancer, or stop eating saturated fats and watch your cholesterol, or be sure to have your regular lady or man-health check ups. All good advice which makes us live longer. So we trust them.

It is just sad when the evidence that they are wrong, that this child does have ENORMOUS potential is right in front of your face, and yet their otherwise intelligent parents cannot see it; because a Doctor told them otherwise.

So you need to find a balance between accepting this is "~As good as it gets" and striving constantly for the next big therapy/cure"

I had this recently with my own Bratty. I had accepted that the door was closed. She had not received the speech and language intervention she so desperately needed in time, and her potential to develop intelligible expressive communication was always going to be limited.

Turns out after a comprehensive assessment by a full time speech therapist, and 3 months in a school where they know how to reward and encourage accurate vocalisations, she can say words that anyone can understand. So a little piece of my heart's longing for my little girl has re-opened. I hadn't given up on her you realise, but I had accepted a limitation that turned out to be environmental, rather than anything to do with Bratty's ability.

My kids bring me huge challenges as you can imagine. But I am well aware of how lucky I am to have them. To have had not one but two successful pregnancies that resulted in two healthy and usually happy human beings makes me very fortunate indeed.

Not everyone is so fortunate. And finding a balance in how they feel must be very difficult indeed. On the one hand they can just keep on trying, undergoing painful and invasive procedures which put too much pressure on simple things which the rest of us just take for granted. Doing what the Birds and the Bees Do, becomes fraught with timetables, charts and temperature gauges. And waiting to see if you get your period; a small inconvenience to most of us, but one that we can easily prepare for. An absolute devastation to the couple who are praying with every fibre of their beings that this month they have conceived.

Contrast that with giving up, accepting it isn't going to happen naturally and getting on with life. They may even begin to resent people complaining about their children, avoid friends who are pregnant, and make a point of staying away from potentially child filled environments.

While that is understandable, I don't think it is a good idea.

This might be in the Top Ten of Things You Don't Say to People With Fertility Issues, but I am going to say it anyway:

Anyone who is going to that much effort to pro-create is going to have a lot of love stored up ready for the child they are hoping for. So perhaps they could invest a little of it in the short term, in making a difference to someone who needs them now.

I'm not talking about Adoption, although that may be an option down the line. An option that is no less painful or hope/time consuming than fertility treatments if the popular media is to be believed. I am talking about volunteering to help someone who needs more love than they are currently getting from their family or other care givers.

Think about the skills and talents you have, which you perhaps hope to pass on to your children; and use them now to improve the life of someone less fortunate in life's lottery.

People with physical, mental or learning disabilities can lead very sheltered lives, often in the care of people whose "God Help them" attitude only exacerbates the situation as they have limited life experience themselves. One of my greatest bug bears is to see young adults with disabilities being lead or pushed about places which are intended for children. Often dressed in a childish or frumpy manner with haircuts that would horrify a typically developing teenager.

They deserve better. They deserve to be taken to Art Galleries, or Museums, or The Mall. And they deserve to be in the company of people who know about art and architecture and fashion and not wearing socks with sandals and where you can get nail polish that looks Exactly like Chanel Black Satin for 1/3 of the price. And a hairdresser that will cut your hair the way YOU want it cut, in a style from this decade (or at least a homage to previous one)

And yeah, there are families like mine who could do with an extra Auntie or Uncle to share the unconditional love while you are waiting to start a family of your own. But I am trying not to be selfish here. There are people who need you more.

To finish I will show you a picture I took this weekend. We used to have a lot of conflict on the weekend, as Bratty likes to Go Places, and especially likes going to Glendalough for a long walk with her Mammy and Daddy, while Boo likes to stay home, drink Coke and play on his Computer, while watching Dvds and Videos; simultaneously.

We divided into two teams for a while which did little for family harmony, but recently came up with a solution. We now have an Angel stay with Boo every Sunday while we take Bratty up to the Mountains. The Angel is free to watch "The X Factor" and use the Internet while indulging Boo's every whim. And Bratty is free to run wild along the path while Mr H and I discuss the state of the nation and the week ahead. Followed by a brief spell of throwing stones in the lake.

Bratty and Mr Hammie achieving Harmony.
Till next time,


K.Line said…
Geez, Hammie, this post made me cry. It's so rich with ideas: the balancing of work and family (it will come but I must admit, it's a slow - sometimes arduous - process). Not that you, of all people, can't understand this completely. The limitations we imagine are sometimes mercifully imagined... That's fantastic that Bratty is speaking so well. That's a huge freakin' miracle (laced with your and her hard work)! And maybe the people who fear that life is in some way over, because so sadly they won't have the family they have imagined, can use the love - and resolve - they've got saved up to help others.

I'm short on family close by and my daughter has really had to manage on a family of 2 parents and that's it. I feel so badly sometimes that she doesn't have the sense of tradition and community that regular, available extended family provides. (Of course, we do what we can, but you know what I mean.) In the last few months, friends of ours finally convinced me that they really would like to go out on Friday nights for dinner with all three of us. And they show M such attention and affection. It warms my heart. Not to mention it alleviates the parenting isolation I struggle with.

Great post, H.
Elizabeth said…
Beautiful balance post, Hammie. I always wait for quiet time to read your writing, because it is lesson time for me. I must have full concentration to take in your words.
Songy said…
Dear Hammie. Thank you so much for sharing this very heart felt story.

"Things need to tip a little one way, then another before they settle into a natural balance."

I take this as today's wisdom to remind myself that life isn't all that bad. I'm just having to balance out which is getting a little tricky at the moment. It's amazing to know that I find help from all these wonderful blogs.
Half rabbit said…
Been an angel sounds like fun. How would one go about becoming one or getting one themselves? Do you need background checks, extensive paper work and qualifications?

There are day programs (unfortunately 45km's away) that offer shopping among the many things they do. I haven't been myself but I wonder if I could learn about nail polish if I went. ;)
Tatiana Franey said…
such a beautiful, touching and hopeful post, it gave me goosebumps.
i am also interested on how to become an angel, do you have more information?
Lisamaree said…
K-line, thankyou again. Now Bratty isnt going to be reading the news anytime soon, but she has gone from saying "PIDAH" to "PEEZER" (Pizza) within 3 weeks of the full time speechie. As for your friends going out with the 3 of you, I think it is their gain and they might be getting as much out of M's company as you are. I hope you find some more angels to make up for absent family.
Enc; thanks for that. I do worry, Cal actually gave me a "rambly" award recently and Nick has counselled me on the length of the posts, I just think I have to say it all, for my own mental health. Thanks for sticking with me.

Songy: Glad to help out. I think we all have a little som-zing to work through. Let me know if you ever want to share more. Problem shared and all that.

Tatty and H/R, I will put a job spec on the Angel Message boards.
Anonymous said…
SUCH amazing news about Bratty! That must've felt like an amazing and unexpected gift. And I couldn't agree more about treating adults with disabilities like children. Some people even refer to them as "kids," and I just think, "What are you TALKING about? This is a group of people in their 30s and 40s, here." Bratty couldn't look more adorable and stylish in her red coat, and I'd bet it makes her feel more sure of herself to wear it.
Make Do Style said…
Gosh Bratty is beautiful!
Nan P. said…
I never got to congratulate you on your new job. So here it is:

As usual, your post made me think... About a lot of things... Things I may take for granted, things I might walk by and never see. My eyes might be more open, more often, my mind more alter to people around me.

Thank you.
Adlibby said…
Lovely. And what a beautiful picture of Bratty and Mr. Hammie.
The Spicers said…
Brilliant brilliant post hammie. So well said I have nothing to add...
And the photo of your daughter and husband is gorgeous!
Cal said…
My dear Hammie...your post has been stuck in my head since I read it. I have a friend who is dealing with fertility issues and the things you said are things I often think to myself but can never quite put into words. I have a lot of follow-up ideas about what you've written but I'm still turning it all over in my head. Thank you for your thoughts.
Seeker said…
My dear, failing words with this so brilliant and delighted to read post.
Thank you so much for that and for sharing your thoughts with us.

Finding balance is such an important things to all of us even in the little things of our lieves. It's an important key that we try to achive with meditation and balancing the chakras with Reiki, for instance.

I love the colours of your view and the beautiful picture of Bratty and Mr. Hammie.
OMG Bratty is beautiful and I bet she feels power with her red coat that looks so good on her.

Love you my dear.

PS- Yes, early nights sucks.
Hope you had a happy halloeen, if you celebrated it.

Candice DeVille said…
When I was recently speaking to a friend who has been undergoing fertility treatments for two years, they asked for my advice. The best I could offer was not to get romantic. That is not to romanticize what having a child would be like for them. Not to try and project the intended outcome of their treatment and possible family. That the more store you put in dreams of perfection, the more likely you are to be disappointed. I was once told about many things in life "expect nothing and you won't be disappointed." I take this not to mean "don't have goals or aim for anything" but rather expect wonderful things, but don't be overly specific about them. (if that makes sense) That way every event that comes your way can be seen in a positive light. As a challenge, an opportunity for growth or just learning to be a better person. I don't know if I have put that very well, but I'm sure you know what I'm getting at. Anyway, that tactic is how I achieve most of my mental balance.

On another note, you'll find an award waiting for you on my blog today. :)
Seeker said…
I gave you an award, please check my blog.

bronwyn said…
I agree with enc, I need to take quiete time to read your posts, and they are like lessons because you always leave me with something to think about...even though you are talking about things with regard to a specific situation, you bring up universal issues that apply to everyone's lives.
Skye said…
Wonderful post - and a really beautiful photo of those two (it almost looks like a painting, the colours are so rich).
Hammie: You have given me a great idea for a blog topic "Top Ten of Things You Don't Say to People With Fertility Issue". I am going to write that post, if you don't mind.

I so appreciate the passion, love and honesty you bring to this and every post you write.
I can't believe this is the first time I've lay my despotic eye balls on Mr H...truth!
Lisamaree said…
He be looking mighty fit hey Immie?

Skye, thankyou. The Autumn we are having is spectacular, BUT COLD!

La Belle, work away. I am glad you read it without hating me. You are one of the talented people that our special world needs!

Bronwyn: Thankyou I hope it isnt just because I am so Rambley (as Cal said< hehe)

And Seeker and Super K;Thankyou! very sweet.
Lisamaree said…
Super K Mama and Cal; yep, there are many talented and amazing people out there who feel thwarted by mother nature. I think your philosophy is a good one S.K.

Nan P: Thankyou. Let us see if they keep me before I start celebratn'

Make Do: I KNOW! And I was the plainest child. (See my facebook if you don't believe me).
She is a goddess.

Casdok: thrilled you could drop by. Hope things are going better for you and C.

IHeart and Adlibby: thanks. Compliments noted and passed on to Mr H.

And SAL! That is exactly what I mean't. There has to be a way to fix that. There just does.
Anonymous said…
Hi Hammie
Loving your latest posts!! Just want to say that as someone who has struggled with fertility issues, and after a long journey achieved my dream family through adoption, I couldn't agree with you more. I was a big ball of love just waiting to find someone to give it to, and had I thought about helping someone who needed it, I probably would have done. When you go through the long wait for a child, and them discover that he isn't the "perfect" little boy you spent all those years imagining, it's a big shock to the system. But he is most definitely the child we were meant to have.. We were destined to be together, I could not have designed a little person more perfect to be my son. He is MY angel and I thank God every day for him and his little sister.
Lisamaree said…
Tazzy so glad to hear from you. I think what you have done is remarkable and as they say in America, your kids must be real smart, because they chose a great Mommy!
Sister Wolf said…
Just as beautiful as your thoughts is that photo of Bratty and the Mister. Exquisite!
EJ Willingham said…
I read the entire post, but I'm still completely distracted by the picture. Pictures. Wonderful.