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.  :)

25 comments:

  1. I love this post and no comment can do it justice really.

    I just loved it.

    And I am so with you about the rules and boundaries.

    That snap of your little girl playing with the Mouse and the tea party set up is 11/10.

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  2. Anonymous12:55 AM

    You have such a way with words. You communicate your thoughts so well that I completely understand what you're trying to say and I just love that. It helps me put myself in your shoes and see things differently. Lamp is beautiful, smart, charming, and funny and she would be those things no matter what. Like you said, they are intrinsic parts of her 2 year old personality. Not the result of reflections and decisions she's made based on her situation. 2 year olds don't think like that. They are innocent and pure and whole and they are what they are naturally. Lovely, thought provoking post. Love reading your blog!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Yes, I think 2 year olds in general are quite amazing creatures. Pure innocence and no ego. Difficult at times, but mostly lovely.

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  3. Love your post, so honest and beautiful. I often find myself thinking similar thoughts about squashing the love out of my two year old son. I love his unconditional love for anything and everything. I have learned more in the past two years than I have in my lifetime, he has been good for my soul. I so want him to be who God meant him to be... I pray that God doesn't let me interfere with all his talents and I can just sit back and watch it all unfold.

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  4. Anonymous10:26 AM

    I have been reading your blog for a while but never commented, but today I just had to! Boy it really hit home for me, my five year old has been testing the whole family- we need some mercy! thanks!
    Diana

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  5. This was beautiful. I needed to read this today. Thank you.

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  6. Anonymous10:53 AM

    You write so wonderfully and I Love love to read your blog..I bookmarked your blog and read/check it everyday...

    Anyway I wish Lamp will stay always to be the most happy and joyful and I think it is because of you that she got that positive attitude.

    P.S That tea set and the table is the cutest thing I have ever seen...where did u get it?

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  7. "Awwwww, quit being fwustwated already and just be happy!" That cwaked me up!! HA!

    Beautiful post.

    xo

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  8. i totally get what you are saying in the second half of the post. i feel the same way when i hear people talking about how awesome people in developing countries are because they are so happy despite not having xyz. sometimes this is a valid discussion, but sometimes it shows a total lack of "seeing" others for who and what they are. every day.

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    1. Emilia--Wow...you just opened my eyes as I had never thought about it in those terms but you're absolutely right. Thanks.

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  9. I've never commented before, but I want to say thank you for this beautiful post. Really, I think what you wrote at the end about Lamp's personality and attitude being distinct from her limitations can apply to all of us, whether differently-abled or not. Learning to love is about learning how to look through a person to their soul and view them the way God views them: as a divine masterpiece independent of the cards they have been dealt. Children are the clearest example of this because when they are young they are unencumbered by the patterns of thought that, as adults, limit our ability to love. Surely this is why Christ instructs us to be like little children...anyhow, Lamp is beautiful and so are you :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts; they make me think hard about how I approach my world.

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    1. Amanda--yes I too thought of that same injunction to be like little children in relation to this post. (That was a terrible sentence...hopefully you understood what I meant!)

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  10. Oh well, of course we are all different and I can't pretend I can fully understand what you feel and mean, and yet, I somehow can. I believe we all want others to see our kids as they are, and not through one aspect that is only one aspect of them. I can understand that it is upsetting that some people see your little Lamp through the main perspective of her disability. As you say, she is differently-abled (she is very good at manipulating things indeed) and she is what she is, a cute little girl. It is not about ignoring the person she is, it is about acknowledging the person she is. And your blog is very good at fostering this attitude I think. One difference in a person should not hide the person herself. When I see Lamp (and her big sister), I see my own kids: gifts, challenges, moments of grace, mommy's dedication, hopes and worries, happiness. Young kids are good at that: seeing without the barrier of labels, details, intentions; you're right, they're good teachers!
    By the way, I love this tea set with the mice!!

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  11. I can't tell you how much I needed this post. The idea of mercy and pure justice crushing love. I weep. Thank you for the link to Elder Holland's talk. This was truly an answer to my prayers. Thank you.

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    1. Cass--Smiles and hugs. :)

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  12. I admire YOUR ability to sort of immediately process all this. I am always about a month behind in making sense of my kids & their/our experiences. :>

    I know you must know this, but what a blessing that "naturally happy and bright disposition" is. For her, for her family, for the world. I have a kid who both has the special needs and the really difficult personality. Sometimes I think the two together will do us all in! But he is who he is, and he would be that person without the special needs, I believe. We love him desperately, of course. I am personally grateful for the ability of others to see the non-relationship of the disposition and the special needs. I think that is part of what you are asking for in this post...and I hope it will happen that way for your daughter as well. Sending every happy thought your way -

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  13. And I meant to add, the sibs walk a tough road and that is the truth of it. At the same time, I am happy to report that my children (much older than yours) all seem to survive (happily and well) and make their place on that road. In fact, I find myself blown.away. by my typical kids...and I am sure you do/will too. Hard road, but a good one. My two cents.

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    1. Angela--Yes it must be difficult to have both special needs and a difficult personality. I'm glad you see through it and love him for who he is. (Not all parents do this well.) And yes, it can be really tough for our typical kiddos. But also really great. I think my oldest daughter has a head start when it comes to seeing others for who they really are. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  14. Such a great post. I totally "get" it. I often had a similar train of thought when working in a special school but it's so refreshing to hear someone else articulate it so well!

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  15. My son looks "normal". He can be very difficult when dealing with his mental "issues". Even family members do not understand because "he looks so normal". I struggle with this every day. I wish people would just accept our differences instead of trying to label them. God created us all to be individuals, unique. We all need more mercy in dealing with each other.

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    1. Kiki--You know I used to sit there and try to figure out which was worse--looking "normal" and then not having people understand why certain kids act certain ways. The plus side being that at least people don't judge them immediately upon first look. OR was it harder for someone like my daughter whose differences are front and center every single time. The upside being that while it can be difficult for little kids, most adults go out of their way to be very kind and sweet to her.

      I decided that they're both hard. And they both have upsides. Such is life right?

      And yes it would be great if we could all be more merciful in our dealings with others...that would solve so much! Hugs to you.

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  16. My son has autism...sometimes I feel that if he is doing something quirky like singing a song at the top of his lungs or if he's having a big screaming meltdown that people who know about his diagnosis just assume its the autism. Which annoys me because I want to say, "Let him be two!"

    We are ALL people first, foremost, and only. We are people.

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  17. Thank you Amy! I have enjoyed reading your blog and you truly help me see things in a better light. Lamp is just awesome! Love ya.
    Heather

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  18. Gosh, this. This! This, wow, you are talking about SUCH important perspective stuff, and it is thrown into such strong relief because of Lamp's physical realities.
    I LOVE your reframing.
    This isn't Lamp DECIDING to have a positive attitude... it's HER.

    And, yes, we need to know this about ALL children.

    Wonderful.

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