It is probably fair to say that I have some life experience behind me: over half a century on this earth teaches you a few things. Among others I can mention:
- Growing up in one country, then adapting to and finally adopting the subtly different ways of another;
- Going through the varying shades of marriage life, from the very highs to the very lows;
- Having two beautiful children, and guiding each for twenty odd years, then learning to let them go and fend for themselves;
- Putting various courses and several academic qualifications under my belt, and moving along a career path with twists and turns that have brought me to touch on many areas.
Yes, I might know a thing or two about life…
Or so I thought.
Until a ten-and-a-half-month old child pipes in and gives me a big lesson in Respect, Trust, and Humility.
Since Cathal was born, I have had to make great efforts not to “get in there” and give his mammy my two pence worth of opinion on what she should or should not be doing. It can be difficult to take a step back and keep quiet when you see how any parent interacts with his or her child; it is especially hard when that parent is your own child. The parenting reflex tries to kick in, and I have found myself calling on my willpower time and again not to say anything.
Do not take me wrong, it is not that I do not trust my daughter. On the contrary, I think that she is incredible, and she has truly surprised me and gone beyond any expectations I might have had of her. She has found a way through motherhood that is working for her, and for Cathal. I have full confidence in her. I am not worried about her. It is just my own mothering instinct re-surfacing every now and again, tugging at me to guide and protect.
Lesson One: When I meet up with Cathal, my first reaction is always to take him in my arms, hug him, kiss him, hold him, and then play with him. But Cathal does not like being held and hugged and kissed as soon as I appear in the room. And why should he? Cathal likes to assess the situation first. I imagine his train of thoughts are:
- Who is she?
- Oh yea, I know! Now, do I want to talk to her? Is she interrupting me? Am I in the mood, or do I prefer to keep doing what I am doing now?
- Granted I agree to interact with her, do I want to be touched? Or hugged? And kissed? In short, am I ready, right now, for this level of intimacy?
If this does not suit Cathal, right then, I must respect him. So Lesson One is: even though Cathal is very young, he has his boundaries, the same as anyone else, and I have to RESPECT them. And if I don’t, the whole house hears of it, believe me!
Lesson Two: I generally do not try and assess “how well” Cathal is doing by comparing him to “other” children. I know it is fruitless and could be the source of unjustified and unproductive worry. Generally speaking this is easy enough to do. Except as far as food is concerned. For some reason, I find it hard not to worry about the fact that Cathal can be what I would call “fussy” about food. Obviously, his mammy’s milk is the best for him, and he thoroughly enjoys this. It is also benefiting him well, as his weight keeps going up and he is steadily growing. BUT, and this is my “but” and no one else’s, my mind keeps wandering if he “shouldn’t” be eating more solids.
I keep going back to his own mammy and his uncle, and how well they took to solids very quickly. I keep thinking back only a few months ago to my youngest nephew, only 8 months older than Cathal, and how at ten months of age he was wolfing down one bowl of dessert after a huge plate of mashed up dinner, twice a day, plus a big cereal breakfast, and a mid afternoon snack of fruit puree with a full yogurt!
From what his mammy has told me, from what I have witnessed, depending on his mood, depending on what is happening around him, Cathal might, or might not, eat a few spoons, or a few more. In short, I have been worried.
Last Saturday, I met a friend for lunch and we chatted for several hours: she is a grandmother, several times over, and one of her grandsons has DS. So we were “swapping stories”. I expressed my concerns about Cathal vs. solid food. No matter what she said, even she could not lift the nagging worry. Then I went straight from this long and late lunch to Cathal’s home. And when teatime came, Cathal sat at the table, and the clever boy, proving my concerns are totally unjustified, demonstrated that he could eat ALL his dinner, and ALL his dessert if he wanted to. I went home thinking that this child had a good laugh at my expense.
Conclusion of Lesson Two: on Saturday, Cathal was telling me:
“Nan, mind your own business, this is my life, my way of doing things, it works for me. So but off, stop worrying, and TRUST ME!”
And this brings me to Lesson Three: Humility.
Through this incident on Saturday, I was reminded, yet again, that I do not know everything. Despite my accumulated life experience, I still have a lot to learn. And Cathal’s extra little chromosome brings me into an aspect of life I accept I know nothing about, where everything is put back in its own perspective, must be considered in its own merit, where the bigger picture is lit from a different angle.
A ten-and-half month old is my new teacher. Who would have thought?