Nowadays you have to be so careful of who is in the room when you are watching TV. Most of the primetime shows, and even the stinking commercials, require serious parental guidance. Over the years we’ve become masters of distracting the kids when questionable material pops up, but sometimes we just forget. Such was the case the other night. It was getting near bed time and MC had already fallen asleep on the couch watching Myth Busters; usually safe for 10 and up. However, last night we were watching the episode where they were building a flying guillotine. Now normally that wouldn’t be an episode for the children, but of course MC was asleep. What I didn’t think of was that AC was not asleep. As most of you know AC is my spectrum child so she sometimes has a hard time expressing herself in words, but not this evening. As soon as one of their guillotines cut the mannequin’s head off I heard “ouch, that has got to hurt”. It was at that moment Mrs. Superdad and I realized that she had been watching the whole thing. We both laughed at what she had said and at the realization that we were sitting there with our 11 year daughter watching a guillotine demonstration; hardly a picture of good parenting.
Parents aren’t perfect, yet often times we think we have to be. The truth is we are all only human and sometimes out of our imperfections come some pretty funny moments. So my encouragement is don’t beat yourself up. Our kids are a bit tougher than we think and even if it is a big mistake it can be a good teaching/learning experience for both you and your child. We’ll try to be a bit more careful next time, but I don’t think AC will experience any permanent damage from this experience. However, her brothers might want to watch out!
A few weeks ago I wrote about our “battle” with video games and how we were trying to find a way to teach the kids how to manage their time in the face of this temptation. Well the situation finally became intolerable while I was gone on my mission trip and Mrs. SuperDad made the executive decision to remove the video games and I couldn’t be happier. Rather than mindlessly staring at a TV screen and whining about video games MC is now running around the house pretending to be Indiana Jones. Without video games he has a renewed interest in board games, Legos, and just being a creative 10 year old boy. I didn’t realize just how much it was suppressing his creativity until the video games were gone. I love watching MC run around building secret temples around the house. However, we do have to make sure we are checking on the young adventurer as Mrs. SuperDad found him preparing to swing from the ceiling fan across a “pit”. I think moms really do have a sixth sense about such things.
Being a parent means that sometimes we must do things that we don’t want to for our kids’ wellbeing. Removing yourself from a situation you can’t manage is a sound strategy. As parents we never stop learning and for me this is a reminder that sometimes a radical change is required. For our children to thrive we may need to make an unpopular decision.
Sometimes my job requires me to travel which profoundly changes everyone’s routine and adds stress, especially for AC and MC. Stress tends to spread like an illness, if one person is stressed it causes additional stress in everyone. So how should we deal with this stress? Most importantly how do we reduce it to a minimum? The short answer for us has been more “field trips”. Over the years Mrs. Superdad’s strategy has been if the schedule is disrupted anyway don’t fight it, rather acknowledge the disruption and define your minimum required activities. Plan how you can accomplish these required activities and scale everything else back and insert some fun activities/trips. On my most recent trip Mrs. Superdad took the kids to the Athens Freshwater Fishery. The kids hadn’t been there in several years so it was quite the treat. This trip gave the kids something to look forward and took the focus away on dad being gone.
Raising special needs children is stressful enough and for many of us it is our routine that we rely on to keep these crazy days on schedule. So when our routine is interrupted we feel a bit out of control and our kids feel it as well. Trying to maintain the routine that was built on both parents being around is doomed to fail and only serves to add stress to everyone. Most of us have a lot fewer “have-to” tasks than we think. Just because something is part of our routine does not mean it is necessary. So do yourself a favor and stay calm and roll with the disruption.
I know it is only July, but according to AC it is time to start getting our Christmas lists together. This week she is full- on perseverating about Christmas. She is looking through toy catalogs, making her list, watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas books, and ( if we didn’t keep them locked up) the Christmas decorations would be up. As I write this I hear her arguing with Mrs. Superdad that it is Christmas time. Now, I hear Mrs. Superdad running a bath to relax her and AC. Mrs. Superdad is trying to get her to re-focus on our upcoming trip to visit family. Seems to be working right now, but only time will tell if she has moved off Christmas. For many of us perseverating can be frustrating and add to our general exhaustion. So how should we deal with it? As you might expect there are a lot of different schools of thought. There is a good article on Snagglebox about perseverating. For AC, re-focusing her on something else generally works, but of course it isn’t fool proof and sometimes it can require a lot of energy. However, it seems to be a good place to start. Just like Mrs. Superdad trying to get her excited about something a little more “relevant”, like our trip in July, than thinking about Christmas in July.
Our children are all individuals and so there is no one-size fits all solution, but likely one of the common strategies will likely work for your child. However, the biggest advice I would give is not to make it a bigger deal than it is and add stress to you or your child. Even if you do nothing they will move on to something else eventually and as long as you can keep together just enjoy it. Let everyone know what works for your special kids.
Sorry I wasn’t able to post last week, but I was on a mission trip. The wonderful thing about the mission trip, in addition to being able to serve others, is that it allowed me to demonstrate to my kids what it means to have a servant’s heart. Included in the many people I had the honor to meet last week were several special needs kids. Even though language was a challenge we were able to communicate effectively enough through actions. One little boy who couldn’t have been more than about 3 had a disability that made walking and running challenging. Although he had a difficult time keeping up and playing with the other children, he never stopped smiling and never gave up. Seeing how much he wanted to play I started passing a ball back and forth with him. I’m not sure how long we passed that soccer ball back and forth, but it was quite a while. He never gave up and never stopped smiling. I could tell his parents were enjoying him just getting to play and be a little boy. Although his parents had very little materially, the little boy’s attitude and smile told me that they were rich in love and determination. It reminded me that when it comes to children, special or otherwise, it is the love that the parent pours in that determines a child’s attitude and success.
That little boy’s courage and persistence is a reminder to all of us that many obstacles can be overcome with the right attitude. Yet, attitude is something that is learned. So if we want our children to grow up with an attitude of success and love, then we need to take action. Simply taking food over to a neighbor who has been sick or spending some time serving at a soup kitchen will speak volumes to your kids; it will make you feel good as well. Alright Super Dads let’s get off the sidelines and set a great example for our kids!
If there is any truth in parenting, it’s this: when one kid gets sick you better batten down the hatches because everyone is going to get it. Occasionally, someone escapes, but it is rare. My youngest caught something and this past weekend all of the children and I were down. It wasn’t bad, just a cold, but it was enough to slow things down a bit. I’m by nature someone that has to be doing something. Just sitting around and watching TV for hours seems like such a waste of my time. Yet, as the kids and I binge watched TV it gave me time to think about how busy I’ve been keeping myself. I was reminded that every once in a while we need to stop working, lift up our head, and look around to determine where we are at, where we’ve been, and where we are going. With special needs children most days we are just working to keep everything on track and moving forward. Yet, if we don’t take these days of rest we risk not only burning ourselves out, but ending up miles from where we wanted to be. Sometimes there are even blessings in being sick.
A little cold has reminded me I need to make sure I set aside a day of rest every so often and not wait until I have no choice. This will be a real challenge for me. Yet an addiction to being busy all the time is just as bad as an addiction to sitting and watching 4 hours of TV every day. Balance is the key. So let’s get out there and work hard and rest hard!
AC loves to travel and lives in anticipation of the next trip. AC’s favorite place is the ocean, but she is up for any trip. Usually, once every week or two, she’ll be upstairs packing a bag so that we can go to the beach. Of course the bag is 99% toys, bathing suits, and towels. She might pack one additional change of clothes if we are lucky. We can’t always take a trip or go to the beach, since we don’t live close to the ocean, but we certainly like AC’s eagerness to travel. We want her to understand that her world is just as big and interesting as everyone else’s. We want her to experience other places, people, and, yes, even ways of thinking. We are called to love others, but how can we love what we don’t even attempt to understand? That of course doesn’t mean we always agree, but once you get to know someone who has a different perspective you increase your own understanding. I want all my kids to have the love that comes with understanding. AC’s eagerness to explore her world is a gift and one I want to encourage.
Most of us don’t have unlimited amounts of money and time in which to explore the world and truly it doesn’t require some large and expensive get-a-way to Europe. If you can do a trip like that then go for it, but if you can’t then just going to the next town can be a tremendous adventure for your kid; especially if your child has never left your town. Remember it isn’t the money you spend, but the time and opportunities you provide. I’m continuing to work on the resources page, but I need your help. Please add in the comments some of your favorite places to go so that I can share them with other Super Dads and Moms. Let us give our kids some great adventures!
Despite what my kids might think, I’m not anti-video games. However, like all other forms of art/entertainment they have a time and place (and most important for video games: a duration). Video games drive me crazy because they are purposefully designed using advanced research in human manipulation. Marketers for years have tested and studied how people think and react to stimuli. The commercials you see on TV often have as much science as art in them. Video game designers have used this information to create games specifically designed to get us hooked and keep us occupied for hours on end. So they are designed to be addictive. Now I could go on a tirade about the moral implications, but the truth is they only deliver what we (society) asks for so we need to look at ourselves. Now take that information and add in a child with impulse control issues and you have an instant fight on your hands. Fight when you won’t let them play, a fight when they are not winning, and a fight when you make them stop. There have been a number of times where it has been so tempting just to throw all of the devices away. I sometimes think that is perhaps the best approach. However, I really want to try and teach the kids how to manage their time in the face of these temptations. We all have things we like to do that are fine in moderation, but that we are tempted to overdo.
So this is the point where I tell you what has worked for us. However, I honestly don’t have a good solution. We have tried things with varying degrees of success, but the goal of teaching them how to moderate themselves has eluded us. So I have a call to action for my Super Dads and Super Moms. What has worked for you? Please share with the community. Let us help our kids not just to survive in this world, but to thrive.
In my last post I talked about the importance of sports and shared about the success our kids were having at a day camp called “Sports World”. The kids finished camp yesterday and they were just as excited on the last day as they were on the first! My wife and I were a bit concerned during the awards ceremony about how AC would react not getting one of the trophies, but AC’s buddy used some quick thinking and pulled AC’s participation medal out of bag and gave it to her, avoiding a meltdown. When we got the kids back to the van they were so excited wearing their medals. I asked MC if he wanted to go again next year and without hesitation he said “yes”.
The last activity was the awards ceremony and there were two trophies in each sport: best spirit and I am third award. The spirit award speaks for itself, but I’ll explain the “I am third award”. It is given to the kid that best demonstrated the ideal character of God first, others second, and himself/herself third. I love both of these awards because it is really these attributes that are at the core of any winning team. We’ve all seen teams that are stacked with talent, but never win that championship, while another team that lacks the “superstars” takes it all. They win because of their spirit and willingness to put their team goals ahead of their own.
So re-capping the past week: the kids got to learn a sport, interact and play with nearly 300 other kids, compete in their chosen sport, and learn how to win/lose well. AC even made a little friend who proudly announced she is special too, she has ADHD. I can’t say enough about all the volunteers who made the event really special. I especially want to thank AC’s buddy who did a fantastic job. AC even gave her a spontaneous kiss! Not something AC typically gives to anyone, let alone a non-family member. They all did an outstanding job and gave the kids lifelong memories.
Now comes the hard part for this Super Dad and Mom. How do we build upon this experience? Honestly we aren’t sure, but it is going to be the topic of conversation around the house. For sure there will still be challenges and not everything will go as smoothly, but that is life. That doesn’t mean we stop living. We are always open to suggestions, so don’t be shy and send them our way!
Sports play a crucial role in the development of our kids by teaching them teamwork, fair play, and how to win/lose well. These are skills critical to success. It is often tough for parents of special needs kids to get them involved in sports and we have been no exception. However, this year we made the decision to enroll the kids in a sports camp. Every year our church has a one week day camp called “Sports World”. We were a bit nervous, but nothing risked; nothing gained. AC chose softball and MC tennis. AC has a buddy who stays with her, but she participates in everything the other kids do. So far it has been going better than we could have hoped. The kids are so excited and loving it. The only issue we’ve had is the AC has been so excited that she has been waking up at 3:30am. So of course by noon she is falling asleep and my wife goes and picks her up. We still have another day to go, but so far this has been an encouragement to us all.
Getting special needs kids involved in sports is a challenge. The time commitment, finding the right sport and team are huge when some days we are just trying to survive. Yet if we never try we’ll never know. I believe we often, through our desire to protect our children, keep them from activities that they are capable of performing. I challenge all of the Super Dads and Moms out there to re-evaluate getting your child involved in a sport. It really doesn’t matter what sport as long as the child enjoys it. It is through successes like what we’ve experienced this week that build both kids and parents up to take on the next challenge.