Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just keep swimming!

Dear Linsey,

I am having such a difficult time writing this post about Cowboy and Wills, by Monica Holloway.  I did enjoy reading the book, even though I cried while reading various chapters.  I could so relate to Monica, in her struggles to guide her son through autism spectrum disorder.  All the while I would think about Margo, and the struggles we have gone through as she pushes through her gross motor delay. 

For instance, I was reminded of the difficulty it had been for both Mark and I to come to grips with Margo's delay.  I am not sure what to call it, a disability, a special ed thing, a neurological disorder.....dyspraxia?  To the trained eye, it is obvious, something is off, to my friends they see nothing wrong with her.  To Mark and I, we celebrate her progress: for instance, this past summer, she was able to make it through the rigors and confusion of swim practice without crying.  A year ago, she cried almost every day at swim team practice, yes she was only 5 years old, and the coaches would yell at the other swimmers to get out of Margo's way.  Why? because if she was touched by someone in the water, it totally threw her off and she lost a sense of what she was doing, and it disrupted the sense of order she had established with her body and its movement.  This year, she would just keep on swimming.  That was our theme, keep on swimming, just like Dori in Finding Nemo.  We would celebrate each day she did not cry at practice, and the days she did, I would hold her and say that's ok.  But we celebrated her bravery!I learned from her OT, that Margo does not distinguish between competing sounds.  It's like being in a room, where everyone spoke with the same loudness and you had no clue who was the important person to listen to.  All of this to say, she was never quite sure what she was supposed to do in swimming practice.  So this year, Margo learned to ask the coach, and let them know if she did not hear what they said.  The coaches were very good about re-explaining the swim drills to Margo and she did her best at executing them.  Sometimes, she definitely took the directions literally and it would become the most interesting expression of a one armed swim drill any of us had ever seen.  Eventually, something would click and she would figure out what needed to be done.  By the end of the season, Mark and I realized we could not help her with the swimming, but just needed to let her work it out with the coaches.  In the end, she received a trophy for most improved over the course of the past two years.  It was not an improvement in time this year, but of form, and dedication, and always trying and not giving up.  That is what the coaches explained to all of as about Margo as they presented her the trophy at the end of the season dinner.

I think in the end, I am reminded as a mom, to a kid growing up highly uncoordinated, who just spent a day tripping in her new shoes, that I can't be a helicopter parent.  I have to let her fall down, scrape a knee, and mind you that does happen, as well as get herself back up.  As parents, Mark and I provide her opportunities to move her body with swimming, gymnastics, personal training and OT, and somehow, that develops confidence.  Margo has BFF's, and a great sense of humor.  She still looks like a deer in the headlights when part of a big group, but after a long while, figures out a few things she can do and then sticks to them.  This year Margo has started singing out loud and humming to herself.  She has started dancing to music, even with her friends.

Maybe this parenting thing is really about creating a space where our children explore who they are, and what they can do, or want to do.  Perhaps parenting is learning how to make the space larger as our child matures, till eventually it reaches their favorite number, infinite.  I think that is what I saw Monica do with Wills, Cowboy was a great part of the space.  I think I am doing this with Margo.  Yes I worry too much, but I still let go.  Gee parenting is hard!

Well thanks for providing me the book to read as part of  From Left to Write book club.



  1. I too had some uncomfortable moments when I read Monica's book, but remembered the relief as my son seemed to grow out of certain behaviors. My son has Tourette's Syndrome, Anxiety and possible OCD, but he is not yet four so that is very hard to diagnose. I have become comfortable with these issues but squirmed again when I read your post about swimming as Tyler has an intense dislike and fear of water and we don't know why. I am hoping he will grow out of that as well.

  2. Parenting IS hard, and most parents struggle with these issues. (Which, btw, is why I named my blog It's All About Balance!)