Monkey bars provided a magical moment when T’s “I can’t” became “I can.”
We see for ourselves that while T has a challenging prognosis of at risk FASD, he has so many great qualities. Among them, he is kind, caring, funny, bright and persevering.
But we also see, and notice more, things like anxiety, self consciousness and hesitation.
As an adult, I see and understand now how confidence often plays an important role in allowing others to excel and propel forward.
The hubby and I are mindful with helping T build an inner confidence – as well as perseverance and a willingness to take risks – that can help him navigate challenging moments.
I always think about and wish for T to develop a positive inner voice at an early age, because I am mindful that as he gets older, he will encounter those who’ll chip away at that inner voice. It’s a given; I’m not a pessimist, I’m just a realist.
I will say that some of the challenges related to his prognosis that manifest themselves through his behaviour can often make it difficult to champion this positive message.
Some days it is hard to push the message of you can do it, when I’m clearly impatient or irritated, because he’s driving me crazy.
But thankfully, for our family, the good days far outweigh the challenging ones – and I will never take that for granted.
So back to the monkey bars…
I still remember the first time T showed interest in monkey bars was around age 3.
He’d just hang on a single bar and then drop himself to the ground. Or he would ask the hubby or I to hold him as he grabbed each bar and let us carry him from one end to the other.
Last summer, he decided he would scale across and he did it in one go. Just like that. I was so impressed.
But then he never did it again – and approached them with hesitation. I’d ask him, “Why don’t you try again? You were able to do it before.”
His answer would be, “I can’t! I want you to carry me!”
With warmer days, we’ve been spending more time at the park, because evening walks are always a highlight of our day.
Hello, monkey bars, our old friend.
I tried to break it down into bite size steps.
So a few days ago, I asked, “Why don’t we try just going from one bar to another bar?”
He looked at me with apprehension. But did it.
Big celebratory cheer from me.
“Now try another.”
“I can’t!” He whined.
“You just did it now, try. You can do it.”
He reached for the next bar. A big smile beamed across his face. Then he dropped to the ground.
I didn’t push him this time.
Last night, we were out again and T was playing with his new 6-year-old friend while I chatted with the grandma.
The friend and T went near the monkey bar. The friend tried first and dropped to the ground after a few bars.
T decided he was going to give it a try – without any nudging from me.
He grabbed the first part and I cheered him on.
Then the second. The grandma and I cheered.
Then the third. He had an excited smile now.
Then the fourth. He was halfway done now. The grandma got up from the bench she was sitting on and cheered him on loudly now.
Then the fifth. Sixth.
His arms were trembling and his cheeks red.
One more to go. And it was angled higher than the other bars. Was he going to make it?
“Come on, you can do it!”
T grabbed the last bar and then quickly dropped to the ground. He was sweating, cheeks blushing.
We all cheered him on and he came up towards me and we gave each other a high five.
“You did it! See, you can do it!” I told him later that night, after I retold them story to the hubby.
“Yes, I can,” T said.
I know these are just monkey bars but I see this moment as a metaphor for life itself. And I hope these words from T continue to become a regular part of his inner voice.