Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reaching Out

Any parent can tell you... you never stop being a parent. No matter how grown, how capable, how accomplished your children grow up to become, you always carry a kernel of concern inside. It's the part of parenthood that becomes embedded in your soul the moment that tiny hand clamps around your finger. And as any parent can also tell you, parenting isn't easy. All the technological advances of our time still have not discovered a way to adequately deal with a two-year-olds tantrums or their adamant pronouncements of "NO!". Kids don't come with an owner's manual. No matter how much advice we receive or how many books we read, when it comes to raising our kids we're pretty much on our own.

My first born daughter is the mother of my soon-to-be 11 year old grandson. Scott is an inquisitive and incredibly intelligent boy with an angelic smile and a devilish twinkle in his eyes. Like most children (boys in particular), he can be headstrong and quite a handful for my daughter and her husband to handle. Unlike most children, Scott has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. The behavioral issues inherent in autistic individuals, even high functioning ones like Scott, present daily challenges that can be extremely trying. Recently my daughter, who lives many miles away from me in North Carolina, called me for advice on how to handle some of Scott's extreme outbursts, noticing that some of his behavior reminded her of her own behavior as a child. What I heard in her voice was not just a request for advice but a plea for help of the sort that she was unable to get from the myriad of professionals who have evaluated her son over the years.

My daughter is an extremely resourceful, intelligent person and a devoted mother. She is also an army veteran so she has received rigorous training in how to handle difficult situations. She has proven herself to be a survivor over and over again. She can deal with just about anything. This wonderfully capable person was calling me for help and I was totally useless, or so I felt. I told her many things about her behavior as a child that were similar to that of her son but the context was totally different. She is developmentally normal, Scott is not. Any perceived similarities are only superficial. I wasn't able to offer any sort of comfort, any sort of concrete answer to her request.

Here is where it becomes very difficult for me as a parent. My child asked me for comfort and assurance and I was unable to provide it. Because of the distance, I couldn't even reach out and hold her like I used to when she was little. As I hung up the phone on our conversation, I felt bereft and empty. I had flunked Parenting 101.

So what to do? All I could do was find a way to let her know that she was not alone and that she was still loved, even if I wasn't able to help her in that moment. As is my custom, when I want to connect with someone, I give them something of myself. In the case of my daughter, I created a card for her in which I wrote a personalized note and sent it to her with my love. You can see a small image of it above. It may be a small comfort but I hope it is some comfort nonetheless.

(For a tutorial on how the card was created, as well as the symbolic meaning of the dragonflies, click here to go to my artist blog.)

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

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