Friday, September 9, 2011

Flashback Friday: Life with Mr. Rogers

The following post was originally written, exactly two years ago, shared via my original blog, "Small Portion of a Life's Journey". The ages of my own children have changed... milestones have been reached & obstacles overcome... but the sentiment remains the same.

This Message Has Been Brought to You by: Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

As a child, I watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, as did most all children of my generation did... and I'm sure that many children still continue to do so. I remember thinking that he was only talking to me as he put on his shoes and his sweater to greet me for the day. My kids now don't find much entertainment in his calm-mannered, quiet ways of explaining life lessons. I never thought I'd find a sense of peace with Mr. Rogers again in my entire lifetime, he was an iconic treasure of my childhood whom I left behind at the age of maybe 8 or so. However, some time ago I stumbled upon this quote which lead me to search for more, of course:

"No child is 'perfectly' whole in mind, body, spirit, ability...nor can any child meet all of a parent's hopes and expectations. yet there is a wholeness of each and every child, a wholeness that is unique and brings with it a unique set of possibilities and limitations, a unique set of opportunities for fulfillment."
 ~Fred Rogers

Every parent likes to think their child is perfect, they strive to help their child meet milestones that others are meeting or they shove their child along a path against their will to live up to others' expectations of them. As a parent, this is what we should do to help teach and guide our children in the direction that will help them to achieve the best quality of life possible. I love to think that now that I am a parent to an exceptionally special child, I appreciate more of the little things than most parents probably do. I let my kids choose their own direction and try to guide them along rather than shoving them the way I want them to go or the way that others think they should go.

But, as most all parents, I ultimately want my kids to be the best kids of the bunch. I love to hear how sweet my girls are, it makes their whining and temper-tantrums at home more tolerable because they act the way they should in public. I am proud when they are complimented on their manners, even if I have to give them the discreet evil eye to remind them of the manners they like to push aside when they're in the moment of putting them to good use. I love to hear what they excel at, and even the things they don't, because it enlightens me more as to their interests. My girls know that I am proud of them as long as they are doing their best, even if it's not as good as someone else's best.

"It would have been sad for me to spend my life just trying to superimpose stuff on people rather than trying to encourage them to look within themselves for what's of value." 
~Fred Rogers

Some parents, however, seem to be the most judgmental and harsh critics of other people's children, and I can't imagine how they are with their own children who themselves can't possibly be crammed in to a mold of perfection. I find that I am becoming increasingly more aware of this as my kids get older and I find myself having more little people around. Let's just say that some importance should be stressed on the fact that parents should think before they speak in front of their child because that child will always repeat what they say with great beaming pride, because their mommy or daddy said it first. More often than not, these seemingly "facts" gathered by children are no more than "ignorance" passed from parent to child, along with critical thinking and a sense of dislike for others that are not "perfect".

I must also say that I absolutely despise the most when another parent asks how old one of my kids are, and then asks if they can do __________ (enter random milestone here). Afterwards the plug-ins of theories, advice, and unintentional criticism of your own parenting skills are discussed.

With my girls, who are now 7 and 4, they both reached milestones at a fairly typical rate. My 7 year old didn't like to read, or even be read to. It took her a little longer to develop an interest in books and the patience to sit still that is required. My 4 year old daughter has received speech therapy since she was 3 for a mild speech impairment, and I barely noticed that she had a problem. I spoke her language, and so did her sister so we rarely had a communication problem. I tried to repeat words that she would noticeably mispronounce correctly without criticizing her for not being capable of saying "s" or "f". She speaks so much clearer now, but it would kill me when other mothers would tell me what her problem probably was, or immediately boast that their own child has perfect pronunciation and grammatical skills at the age of 4. I shrugged it off, and still do... only to have those feelings amplified by about a million when it comes to experiences with my son.

"Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them in to nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. it takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it" 
~Fred Rogers

Strength and searching for nonviolent outlets for anger... I've mentioned in other posts how it feels to be around "typically" developing children that are my son's age, I would be lying if I said that it was not a little disheartening to watch them run and play, and even talk a little. It gets even moreso difficult as each day goes by. That's a personal issue within, not one that is imposed by others, because I'm overly appreciative of every little thing he can do that he's not supposed to do. He does have his own set of milestones, and he'll reach them when he's darn good and ready to. The feelings that I felt when I felt attacked by my daughter's lack of formal pronunciation at the ripe old age of 3, only were exaggerated in recent months. 

Why is it nearly always mommies that are guilty of this? Is there a mentality that goes along with having "perfectly" healthy children who are reaching their milestones according to the textbooks? If your children do not accomplish this feat, then you're not part of the club...

"How old is your baby?"

That's the question that always fuels the fire. While I can take great pride in saying that he is 16 months and 19 days old, not everyone can share in the joyous celebration of every day counted that he defies the odds given to him. Not everyone knows the sincere obstacles that are indeed in his way, but even if they do have a sense or know a little of his story... we still get "the look". The second that I answer I get "the look". 

Unless you have a child who is obviously developmentally delayed, you don't know about this "the look". A friend and I were talking, or rather emailing, about "the look". There are many definitions for this in people's lives...but as a mommy to an extra special little one, here is the definition of "the look" on our terms.

"The Look" is the mask that disguises the thoughts of sadness, sympathy, pity, questioning, doubts, or any other thoughts that the person has about your child. Whether this mask is put on at first glance, upon interaction, or just upon learning that your child is actually older than they look or perform. "The Look" is hiding what the person wants to say about that glimmer of optimism you have vocalized your excitement about. They can't understand why you would be excited that your child can do something as simple as move their tongue from one side of their mouth to the other. There is no party needed to celebrate the fact that your child just bit his own hand. 

"The Look" disguises that fact that they feel you are in denial of what your child is actually capable of and that they think your hope has created your child's ability to complete a task they clearly should not be able to. As if something as simple as a parent's will can make a child do something they're incapable of, apparently I'm crazy. They feel sorry for your unfortunate circumstances, they are sad that you face daily struggles, and most often "the look" is given at the moment that there is a great loss for words.

And I would much rather get just "the look" than hear "oh!" along with the occasional, "he is precious/sweet/a blessing" paired with it...

Because, once you pair them together it's an even bigger stab in the eye. As if there was nothing at all they could compliment your child on, but to say "oh!" or go very far beyond an assumption that is true about most children by saying precious/sweet/a blessing along with it to hopefully counteract the blow of "OH!"

"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person."
~Fred Rogers

I thought "the look" was a myth upon hearing about it before until I personally witnessed it. And if that isn't enough to convince you, seconds ago I just flipped on the TV to The View and they were talking about "the look". It was given on different terms, in terms of racial reactions, but still hurtful, judgmental, criticizing, and wrong just the same. *and if it's talked about on The View, let me just's FACT :)

So, why can we just not accept each child as an individual? Why is there this preconceived list of things that every child must live up to to be deemed as complete and whole? I understand there are milestones in development that must be met, but why must they be so strict and leave little room for freedom to relieve some of the pressure. But, most importantly why must judgment be placed upon the innocent little ones who may never reach those milestones or the parents who are already struggling themselves to accept the fact that these parts of the traditional baby book will never be filled in?

If only everyone could have grown up with the wisdom of Mr. Rogers...

"When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand up for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves much more powerful than greed." 
~Fred Rogers

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