Parents of small children always wonder what lies ahead for their kids. I'm no different. I think about my two year-old's future all the time. Add the fact that my son is physically disabled/has special needs/whatever the politically correct term is, and I think it's fair to say that I obsess about his future more than the average parent. I quit my job to stay home with him and make sure that his therapy regimes stay on track for that very reason - to give him a chance to put his best foot forward in life (or, in Eric's case, to be able to simply put his foot forward, period).
The key lesson I've learned from being Eric's father is to try not to judge people too quickly. I know people judge Eric all the time, when we're out at the mall, and he's tired and flopsy in our arms. Or especially when we take him someplace in his walker, people take a second look and often give us the "those poor parents" look. What's there to feel sorry for me about? My son is awesome!
Eric is extremely bright and understands everything you say to him, or around him (my wife always has to remind me "watch what you say, Daddy!"), but with his low muscle tone, he has a hard time working the finest of the fine motor skills: speaking. But that will come, and eventually he will be able to repeat all of the inappropriate things I say.
He's also very funny. First of all, he completely understands that farting, especially in public, is funny. Good start. And he is always cracking me up. The other night, he was having a hard time sleeping, which means we were too. So we brought him into bed with us, which is never a good idea, because he thinks that is just play time. He was laying there, squeezing his mother's nose while she pretended to be sleeping. He thought this was a great game, and I could see that it wasn't going to end anytime soon. I said "OK, all done. No more squeezing Mummy's nose." He stopped immediately, and said "kay" and made his little sign for "all done". Then he turned his head to me, blew me a kiss and closed his eyes. Great. I closed my eyes, thinking of the deep sleep I could feel coming up. But instead, I felt his hand, on my nose, squeezing hard. I opened my eyes to see a look on his face that said "what? I'm not squeezing her nose, am I? Sucker." It's hard to be mad at that. So I didn't sleep much that night, but I laughed a lot.
Anyhow, the point is, he's got a good sense of humour, and he's smart. I have to keep that in mind when I worry about what the future holds for him. No matter how people initially judge him based on his physical issues, his personality will carry him through.
I was really reminded of this today, when I took him to Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre, here in Toronto, for his Occupational Therapy session. In the lobby, I picked up a copy of Abilities Magazine ("Canada's Lifestyle Magazine For People With Disabilities"), and saw the headline "Laughing Matters - Comedians with Disabilities." As a parent of a disabled kid AND an amateur standup comic, that really spoke to me.
The article profiles four disabled comedians, including Last Comic Standing winner Josh Blue, as well as Brett Leake and David Roche. But it started off with a profile on local Toronto comic, Andre "the Anti-Giant" Arruda. The profile started off describing a scene from a show Andre did at Yuk Yuk's in Toronto, highlighting the "awkward silence" in the room as he made his way to the stage, struggling to get onto the stool in front of the mic, dropping his cane in the process.
A few patrons mouth, "Does he need help?" and all of them wonder if it's okay to laugh."Then Andre starts his set, and and they immediately realize that it's okay to laugh, because he is FUNNY! They forgot about their pre-judgements, and remembered what they were there for.
This is exactly what I need to keep in mind. Sure, people will probably have predetermined ideas about Eric all of his life, based on the way he walks (or doesn't, who knows?), or talks, or whatever. But they will soon forget that, when they see him for who he is. Maybe I need to keep that in mind too, to worry less about his future, and know that he will be great at whatever he chooses to do in life.
And not spending so much time obsessing about it will leave me with more time for the important things. Like getting to work writing material for him when he becomes a big-time international superstar stand-up comedian. No pressure, or anything, but I'm pretty sure that's what he will be.