I have always loved the movie Forrest Gump. I love Forrest’s simplistic understanding of his world. His innocence, intense love, and loyalty for the people around him are heart warming and often astonishing. He reminds me so much of my Eddie. It is bizarre how much of that movie mirrors my life. I think Layla loves it because she identifies so well with Jenny’s relationship with Forrest. She needs the constancy of his love, but is frustrated by that same fierce loyalty. I wish I could demonstrate the resolved patience of his mama, but alas, I am nothing like her.
So I’m gonna be real with you: As much as I love that movie, the viewer only sees a romanticized version of what raising a child with a low IQ is like – you only see bits and pieces of what his mama went through to get him to adulthood. You don’t see how Forrest would have truly struggled through childhood, just trying to learn the basics to become an independent, functioning human being. His mama could scarcely have done it all on her own. And if she did, God bless her, she is a saint. I am being completely honest when I say that I know I can’t do it for Eddie – but then, his IQ is lower than Forrest Gump’s and epilepsy erases much of his learning. And, he may never be fully independent. Time will tell. In the meantime, Eddie’s development requires an army of therapists, specialists, teachers, coaches, medication etc. I often wonder if God is laughing at me because he gave me this child who I love whole-heartedly, knowing that Eddie squeezes every last drop of my patience, wringing me completely dry nearly every day. I am not a patient person, so He watches me struggle through it and laughs. I am not a saint, so instead of Sally Fields’ quiet, patient smile, I am either visibly irritated or I am laughing hysterically. I don’t know how to do it any better than that.
DO FORGIVE A SMALL RANT – A little piece of my soul dies every time I have to give yet another tutorial (visual demonstration included) on how to properly use a sponge. The fissures in my sanity crack open a little wider each time I have to bend down to tie an 11 year old’s shoes with a toddler on my hip in the pouring rain. The crow’s feet under my eyes grow yet another toe when I realize that he left the shower curtain open again and sprayed an inch of water all over the bathroom floor and can’t mop it up himself. The only reason I knew is because Layla stepped into the bathroom and screamed in shock as she slipped. Need I go on?
He has to be taught and re-taught again as though today is the first time he has tried. I have often said that teaching Eddie how to do just about anything is like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom. And too often, therapy doesn’t stick. But we have to try. I am not afraid to admit that someone else needs to take a turn for me sometimes. You never see Forrest’s Mama give up on teaching him to tie his shoes because it is literally just easier to do it for him. She doesn’t refuse to give the answer when he asks for the billionth time (and several therapists of varying specialties later) if the a “b” goes this way or that way??? But I did give up on that. And I am ok with that. Why? Because I have to keep myself from wanting to shove a screw driver into my ear since all of my words are on constant repeat like a broken record in regard to raising this loving, sweet-hearted, hilarious boy. I have to choose my battles wisely.
A MOMENT OF LOST PATIENCE – Imagine giving your 10 year old son directions:
1) Take this bag of recycling waste
2) Put it into the blue recycling container in the backyard
3) Thank your very much.
Imagine that since he did this yesterday and last week successfully, that you feel sure that he will just repeat what he has done before and if he runs into a problem, he can ask for redirection or come up with some kind of rational solution. But you find (to your over-used dismay) when you go out to the backyard a few hours later in the pouring rain that he neatly stacked every single piece of recyclable waste (paper included) around the recycle bin to be soaked and sodden right on the sidewalk. Why? Because the can was full (imploring eyes and palm-up gesticulations).Has anyone ever stacked recycle waste or garbage in the backyard before? No. Has he ever done this? No. Is it raining and will paper products turn to mush when wet? Yes. Do we keep a small recycle bin in the garage for when the dumpster is too full? Yes.
But none of this occurs to him. Ever. Oh, the mess on the sidewalk and inside my chest.
BUT SOMETIMES, IT’S FUNNY – Eddie, like any kid, will try to sneak into things he shouldn’t have. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t know how to cover his tracks, or that the tracks even exist. One morning, I got his oatmeal all ready and set out onto the breakfast table. I walked away to get Baby Sue ready for the day. I came back into the kitchen to find sugar crystals all over the counter and the sugar jar left wide open. He honestly thought he could put more sugar into his bowl without me noticing it. And when I asked him if he put more sugar into his bowl, in a high-pitched voice, he whined, “Noooooo?” Yes, his “no” sounded like a question. When I pointed out the sugar all over the counter and the open jar, his voice came down an octave in an, “oh” while his face fell. Like a quick but audible whoops that most kids might think but never actually say. Guess who couldn’t clean up the mess because he can’t use a sponge effectively? His attempts would only make it worse and make me frustrated. I avoid frustration when I can – it’s like a defense mechanism. So instead, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I expertly sponged up the sugar crystals by myself.
TO TRY AGAIN – I now have more time in my schedule and a new referral from Eddie’s pediatrician for another round of Occupational Therapy. That means I get to take some pressure off myself and let someone else try to teach Eddie how to tie his shoes, brush his teeth (and I mean all of them), use a sponge to clean up his countless messes, curl his fingers over a computer keyboard instead of leaving them flat like he is trying to give it a high five, brush all of his hair and not just the top of his head, maybe even bathe himself properly(?) That last bit might be asking too much…but the list of needs is long.
I will take any success or progress he can achieve and I will give all the accolades to the person who can help make it happen. More than likely, it won’t be me. And what is more – whatever he learns, will have to be retaught at a later date. But we will keep trying. And there will be more stories to tell. Maybe someday when I find a trail of cookie crumbs, I will only have to lift a finger to point to the sponge and watch him clean up his own mess.