When faced with fear and worry of the unknown, the natural response is to numb and protect your heart from potential pain.
I remember the early days of reading up about FASD and randomly bursting into tears while watching a toddler T sit or play.
It felt overwhelming, stressful and lonely.
But the heart has muscles. Every emotional weight helps train it to get stronger over time.
“You only see what your eyes want to see.
How can life be what you want it to be?
You’re frozen, when your heart’s not open.”
Last week, T discovered Madonna’s song “Frozen,” thanks to the remix version that’s popular on Tik Tok.
I then introduced T to the original version from 1998 and I was delighted he liked it too.
I chuckle thinking back to my early 20s when I went to get henna tattoos on my hand to copy M’s hands in the music video.
The elderly henna artist told me it’s for women only, but I didn’t care and still did it.
Fast forward to 2022, I chuckle at T’s reactions to the lyrics, “If I could melt your heart…” He insisted that “if your heart melted, you’d die!”
Although T is technically correct, he will one day learn about metaphors and lyrical language.
“If I could melt your heart,
We’d never be apart.”
Special needs parenting is an emotional marathon without a defined finish line.
You experience the full spectrum of emotions: deep unconditional love, fulfilling joy and fun, rewarding successes and soaring highs.
And on the flip side, negative emotions such as fear, worry, insecurity, doubt, frustration…
A crushing grief that visits you like unscheduled waves of the ocean…
An avalanche of guilt of how you could be doing more or how you could’ve reacted differently.
In my young parenting journey, I’ve learned to leave myself open to all of it – the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, the light and dark.
They are a mirror reflection of each other; one informs the other. Each half makes the other real and alive. Both halves make me a whole parent to T.
“Love is a bird, she needs to fly.
Let all the hurt inside of you die.”
So the million dollar question is: How do I, in turn, help T build emotional resiliency?
I’ve got a $5 bill and a lotto ticket in my wallet – so that’s how far I’m at with figuring this out.
One of the best advice I got from a colleague is to validate our children’s feelings.
We may not fully understand what they are feeling, but it is real to them.
The hubby and I do our best to give T the space to feel the fullness of his emotions – he’s a kid who gives the fullness of his emotions! – and to try to give him the tools and vocabulary to process his emotions in a productive way.
Mind you, we don’t always get it right. Often times, our frustrations get the best of us.
But we know the emotional journey ahead for T will be a bumpy one and that’s why it’s important to help him be best prepared for it.
“You waste your time with hate and regret.
You’re broken, when your heart’s not open.”
Last week provided the three of us with a wonderful reset.
After two unexpected snow days, T finally went back to school and daycare.
He had three great days and this was followed by an uneventful and relaxing weekend.
We remain hopeful we can continue this positive momentum. The most important part is T feels good and this will be the fuel to keep us going.
Yesterday afternoon, we asked T to sit down to finish his extra math assignment.
I prepared myself for the exercise – counting 10 more or less, 100 more or less – to be challenging, as T had a hard time earlier in the week and we had to stop as he got very frustrated.
But I didn’t want the fear of another meltdown scare us from trying again.
And so we tried using a different way to explain the math concept to T.
And he got it! He completed the activity and proudly brought it to show the hubby.
This moment reminded me why it’s important to always try, because when things click, it’s so great to see T feel good about himself.
The frustrations make the successes all the more real and rewarding.
Afterwards, we went to play in the snow.
It was our second time out that day and T enjoyed sledding and stomping in the deep snow.
It was late afternoon and we basked in the golden hour light.
It was freezing cold, -15 degrees Celsius, but watching T play, smile and laugh made me feel warm and happy.