Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Lessons from Lamp/Learning about Lamp
Two recent Lamp stories. Partly because I don't want to forget and partly because there's a Sunday School lesson in here....
I put Lamp in time-out the other day for biting big sister in the face. (I know.) It actually wasn't that bad of a bite. After a minute in time-out she said, I'm ready to come out now!
No, I said, You bit sister. You're in time out.
Then she said, Awwwww, quit being fwustwated already and just be happy!
I laughed. Sister laughed. Anger melted away and I got her out. It totally worked.
A few weeks prior to that experience, Lamp was being very disruptive in our church's sacrament meeting. I took her out to the foyer and started giving her a little talking to. As I was speaking to her I told her to look me in the eyes. No, Lamp... look at mama right in the eyes. Reluctantly she turned her head and looked me right in the eyes. Suddenly she lit up like a firefly and said, I see [Lamp] in your eyes!
She could see her reflection in my eyes... and likewise I could see my reflection in hers. While there was no intended metaphor on her part I couldn't see past the double meaning. It wasn't just my reflection, I could see myself in her. I don't remember my toddler years vividly (who does?) but I do know that feeling of being a naughty girl and just wanting someone to love you anyway. And that's what I saw in those beautiful, glowing eyes staring deeply into mine.
Once again forgiveness came swiftly.
I hope my kids don't just survive me, but thrive with me as their mom. They are my superior in almost every way. I believe one of the main reasons we're here on earth is to learn how to love, and in my experience children are born with a natural ability to love. They love so deeply and without reservation, pouring every ounce of faith and hope into us, their fallible parents. It's probably one of the few things that we don't need to teach children, but instead should take every precaution not to knock it out, shame it away or misrepresent what real love actually looks and feels like. I also believe that one way children feel love is through rules and boundaries. They're essential and children thrive under them. Likewise, they often feel a lack of love when rules don't exist.
But mercy. The beauty and necessity of mercy. Not to mention its close ally forgiveness.
In both of these situations you could say Lamp charmed the mercy out of me and perhaps one could label me a softy as such. But I don't care, I'm glad I took the bait and took the opportunity to show her I can be gentle and forgiving even when her behavior dictates otherwise. I haven't always seen it, but I'm starting to understand that love will collapse under the weight of justice alone. Mercy is essential for love to grow. It sometimes feels counterintuitive to my beliefs in parenting, but there is a sense of relief, yes even a thrill, in letting go and allowing mercy to take over.
Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful.
---Jeffrey R. Holland
Switching gears here... Last week Lamp and I went to story time-- a weekly ritual we actually hadn't been to in quite a while. After wards we were hanging out and a mom came up to me and said, I just want you to know that I've been watching your daughter and she just has the best attitude and is such a joy to watch. I almost got teary as I watched her just scooting around just being so happy. She just has the best attitude!
Bless her heart. I know this mother was just amazed at how Lamp gets around and uses her feet and found her to be an overall delightful and charming girl. I don't blame her, I do too. I was not, am not offended because as I have said a gazillion times I would always welcome a parent talking to me about her in an open and upfront way. I really glad she felt she could come and share her thoughts about my daughter with me.
I was however taken a little off guard as I tried to find the words to help this mother see and understand Lamp more accurately. Here's what I was trying to convey to that mom.
At 2 years old, Lamp does not know she's disabled. And in fact, it's something I often forget myself. You may bristle at this overly politically correct term, but really... she is differently-abled, more than she is disabled. (That being said, of course I understand that she still falls under the general umbrella of being disabled. Trust me, homegirls got limitations and no one knows that better than me.) Yes she knows on some level that she's different than other kids, and this awareness grows more with each passing day but at this age, this understanding sort of comes and goes.
Barely having a grasp of the fact that she's different, she certainly is not at an age where she has cognitively assessed her disabilities, the world around her, the cards she was dealt and decided, You know what...I'm just going to have a good attitude about the whole thing. Sure, I don't really have hands, sure I don't know when or how I'll pull off this walking thing, but I'm just going to make the best of it.
I wanted this mother to understand that Lamp is a happy and cheerful little girl because she is a happy and cheerful little girl. She would be the same happy and cheerful girl had she been born with typical limbs. I wanted this mom to understand that while yes she is usually happy and sweet, she's still two. She has meltdowns and screams and throws tantrums. And if you ever see her doing any of these things it's not because she's upset that she doesn't have hands. While no one has ever been as direct as this mom, I sometimes think that other people make similar assessments. When Lamp throws a tantrum I worry more than I did with PSP, because any toddler screaming at the top of their lungs is a spectacle, but add in some major physical differences and I worry that people are connecting dots that don't actually connect.
I still can't put my finger on the whole of it. I'm not exactly sure what I'm hoping to accomplish by relating this story. I guess it is that at this age, her attitude is not much of a choice. She is who she is. And while she has such a naturally happy disposition, she's also a person who has bad days. And nether of these things have to do with her limbs. At least not now. Especially not now. Additionally, I worry that people often don't see her sister for the amazing, wonderful girl she is because look at the happy baby who doesn't have hands. Blunt, I know....but it's getting late and it's time to wrap it up.
I don't know what these two threads have to do with each other, but they've both been on my mind. I don't expect people to immediately see past her limbs. She looks different. She does things differently and that's OK to notice. But it's not all about her body. I don't expect people not to see her differences, but I do expect that they also see the person she is. She teaches me, as does my 6 year old, because they are my children and that is a part of parenting. At this age she is who she is without any ego or worse, self-consciousness. You can bet I have a mountain of worry I keep at bay for the day when she is completely aware of her differences and how the outside world responds to these differences. I hope and pray that her naturally happy and bright disposition will stay with her. That it will not be stomped out of her. Bullied out of her. Teased out of her. Ignored out of her. Overlooked out of her. Or even high-expectations-of-a-constant-positive-attitude-or-you-must-be-a-bitter-disabled-person'd out of her. But for now, she's just another sweet toddler being her authentic self.
I learn from her. I teach about her. I reflect and think and share and think some more.
I guess that's all I wanted to say.
PS--for anyone interested the little mice and table set are made by Danish company Mailig. You can find an assortment of mice and accessories here and here. The tea set was mine when I was little. :)