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.