I have absolutely no idea what I am doing as a mother. There was no instruction book, there was no protocol. There is not even a true diagnosis when we got to the age we realized that we had a round peg that people were trying to put into a square hole.
I have navigated sensory issues, autism spectrum disorder kind of a thing, special education, open heart surgery, broken legs, meltdowns that make your two year old’s tantrums look cute, and I have taken on school districts.
I know absolutely nothing about any of this. But I have heart. I have strong convictions and I have a very deep sense of what is right and what is wrong. I have fallen a hundred times, but I have gotten up a hundred and one times. I have made mistakes, avoided, faced…….. and I have been envious of those who don’t have to navigate this path.
And still I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Luc has been in horseback riding camp this week at the Meadows of Mendon. A few weeks ago I asked facebook if there were any barns or places that allowed teenagers to do summer work. In my opinion farm work is the best thing for a teenager, or anyone for that matter. Good old get your hands dirty work. It teaches you about hard work. Working together. There are things learned on farms about life that you don’t learn in a textbook or at a fancy summer camp.
The links and advice led me to discover that a woman named Amy…. the owner of Meadows of Mendon ran a spring break horseback riding camp. The kids would learn grooming, basic barn work, the responsibility of taking care of a horse. At his school last year Luc did a semester at the Equicenter, so he’s ridden before. I felt this would be the perfect opportunity to spend a week outside, working and learning how to ride a horse.
“Can I just stay home and listen to my music?” He asked. In fairness to him….. we ask a lot of him.
We put him in situations where he has to figure things out. We do not coddle him. We are one of the few parents in the world of special education where we decided to NOT opt out of state testing. We so easily could have, but what would that have taught him?
In this world we have to do things that we don’t like, don’t want to do, and we have to sometimes do things that mean nothing. Sometimes we can stand up and make a change and sometimes we just have to learn to deal with it. To us state testing was the opportunity to practice test taking. Something I am not good at either. We don’t care about results, we know it’s a total waste of a school day….. but we taught him to get in there, face the anxiety and do your best.
We are not always popular parents in our parenting circles for those feelings. But we are here to parent our child, and that’s what we do. We teach him to work, and to roll with punches. We teach him the best way to fight for change and trust me on this one: it never involves raising a voice and fighting. But that’s another blog post.
The first day of camp I worried all day long. But when I arrived to pick him up his smile said it all.
The camp consisted of a handful of kids. He was the oldest, there were a couple of special needs kids, and several little girls (my gosh they were so cute on their horses!!!!).
Amy Jenkins was amazing. She handled all ages and all abilities and disabilities like she invented the method on how to. She is a nurse, has B.S. in Human Development with a concentration in Psychology, and a M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling (for physical and mental disabilities). To say she was incredible is an understatement.
The day was much more than riding. They met each morning to discuss the day. They groomed the horses, did some farm work, fed the horses. She had the boys working and moving all day long.
Each evening when Luc got in the car he was exhausted. A good hard work kind of exhausted. From day one he told me he loved it. As we drove home he explained to me the differences between western and eastern riding. He taught me how the horses respond to commands. He emphasized the work more than the play. He talked of how he helped the adults and helped the littler kids. He talked about the kids with special needs and how he liked working with them.
He won’t even understand how much all of that has meant to me.
I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have a protocol. I don’t even have a diagnosis to work with. I have a vision for the future that I will do everything I have to do to make happen.
An educated, well rounded man. Who didn’t fall through the cracks because we would not allow him to. I see an independent man who understands the value of work. Who doesn’t look for the easy way out. Who faces his challenges head on and head strong. Who knows how to fight without raising his voice. Who knows how to lead without dictating. Who sees his abilities and doesn’t use the word disability as a crutch. Who can stand up without raising a fist. Who can love but not coddle. Who was given zero chance on day one ….and who took life by the reigns.
As we drove to camp for the last day this morning, I offered to pick him up early. I have the entire day off. He said no. He wanted to stay late in fact to spend one more day with his horse and on the farm. I promised him we will continue lessons and perhaps summer camp there, so today was not the end.
I loved driving to the stable. Country roads. The winter giving way to spring. The lack of technology and connectedness, which allows for true connectedness. I took myself back to trails while he rode and I ran. I ran through mud and sticks and rocks and loved every second of being out there. Lost in the woods but so entirely found.
I have no idea what I am doing as a mother. But there is no instruction book. It’s not about me being comfortable. It’s looking ahead and attempting to navigate the path with my husband in the best way we can figure how.
From our hearts.