Sunday, October 23, 2011

Focusing on Ability

I have written before about the ways in which Joshua, due to health issues and developmental delays, is still babyish, and how at times this is a blessing in disguise. I still feel this way. The sentimental mommy in me is never in a hurry for him to grow up. But I realize that there are undertones of negativity to this, too, as it focuses on what he CAN'T do. For example, right now, at age 3 1/2, he is still not potty trained, still walks awkwardly, still drinks formula as his main nutrition and rarely sleeps through the night. I do spend a considerable amount of time thinking about these concerns, writing about them, or discussing them with close friends.

About a week ago, we needed things at two different stores within a shopping center, and I decided we would walk between stores rather than re-parking. Given that Joshua has had a bit more energy lately due to a new med (hooray!), I didn't even bring the stroller. Joshua's brothers were with us also, one of whom is pretty much never in slow motion. In an attempt to keep up, Joshua was walking pretty fast, with his feet turning inward and his left hand raised slightly more than what is normal for the age, with his right arm flailing. I found myself watching him a little sadly and thinking, "He lacks the ability to walk normally." Then, I stopped myself and re-worded this internal observation to simply this: "He has the ability to walk." He can walk! Seriously, what a miracle, given the early days where we never thought he would! It certainly put things in perspective for me. Since then, I have used this as a mantra on days where he seemed really behind with his motor skills or when I made the mistake of comparing him to his peers. I would think, "He has the ability to walk," and then suddenly nothing else mattered much.

This lead me to think... what if I looked at all of his struggles this way? Then, "He lacks the ability to eat properly and is still on formula" could become: "He has the ability to drink formula." See what happens when you take out the negative details? This could even work for other things in my life, and not just pertaining to special needs or to Joshua. I see it as a way to slow down and calm myself when thinking about my many responsibilities or when the future seems to be way too much to process. One example I can think of is how I always criticize myself for what I can't get done rather than what I can. This can be overwhelming. So, instead of thinking, "I lack the ability to keep the house clean and organized," how about: "I have the ability to clean or organize small things one at a time when the schedule allows." Or, for that matter, how about, "I am grateful to have the ability to get out of bed in the morning and accomplish all that I can."

There really is a lot of power in positive affirmations. Words, whether spoken out loud or thought in my mind, have always held a lot of power for me. It is therefore crucial to me that I remain aware how truly lucky we are, and that I am as positive as I can be with my vocabulary. Try choosing your words more carefully. What do you have the ability to do? What do your kids have the ability to do? Maybe the inabilities will fade while the good stuff moves to the forefront where it belongs.