Monday, July 22, 2013

Building boys

In 2004-2005, we built a house near Destin, FL. Not a big, fancy house, but it was ours. I look back sometimes, remembering how difficult it was. You know what the hardest decision for me to make was? Drawer pulls and cabinet handles. I agonized for weeks over which pulls and handles I wanted. I couldn't screw that up! That would make or break the whole house!

As I've gotten older and learned (tiny little bits) from my past mistakes, I realize I don't want to raise my children like I built my house. I don't want to spend all my time focused on the drawer pulls and handles, when there is so much more structurally important to building a good, solid child, than those tiny little details.

I'm reminded of that today at the boys' first swim lesson. A micropreemie and autism mom friend referred me to a local man who's been teaching swim for years, and he was willing to take on the challenge of teaching Dax, the boy who can't drink liquids, who has motor delays, who has a medical chart taller than he is, to save himself if he falls into water. Most people think I'm crazy... Putting Dax into a pool with a man who is known for no-nonsense tough love swim lessons? Putting Dax in harm's way by putting him in water with no floatation device, when he obviously can't even do some of the more basic functions of life? I should protect Dax. I should keep him safe from situations that could hurt him; from people who might not understand; from people who might not understand how delicate he is or how to treat him because he's special.

Today in the parent meeting, the swim instructor singled me out on a couple of occasions, stressing to other parents that Dax was a little different, and we'd have to be more careful with him. He went on later to tell a story about another child he'd recently taught who he had taken it easier on because of health concerns, and he didn't want to stress the child or his parents because they had been through so much.

But, I do want to stress my child. I do want to push him as far as he can go. I want to build a brick house. I want a house with hurricane-proof windows and steel reinforcements. I do not want to focus on the pulls and handles. I want his body to be a fortress, protecting the weak parts with a strong foundation and solid framing. That's what I want for him. That's what I want for both my babies.

So, this week we will undertake a new challenge. Ty will swim fine. He's been comfortable in the water for a while and can hold his own at least for a short time, although I foresee a temper tantrum or two in the near future. Dax, however... Dax has no life-saving abilities in the water at all. He panics, he swallows, he thrashes. This week the goal is to teach him to learn to turn himself over and float with his face out of the water. They will be extra careful with him, but he will require a great deal of sternness and discipline to get him to listen. I think we've found the right instructor to do it.

Now I just have to keep reminding myself I'm building a house. I can't prevent fires, or storms, or earthquakes, or floods, but I can build my house in a way to prevent damage from those things. I can't fix the world. I can't stop bad things from happening, and I can't always shelter my babies.

But I can show them how to live. I can teach them how to survive.

I will not focus on the pulls and handles. I don't care if they get picked first. I don't care if they have clean shoes. I don't care if they get strange looks. I don't care if they have cowlicks. I don't care if they walk funny or talk funny or stim in public. They will have good bones. They will have strong foundations. They will love and they will work and they will fight and they will persevere and they will laugh and they will really, really live.

My babies will be fine.