Tag Archives: gifts

Let the Music Play!

As parents and caregivers of kids on the spectrum or any special need, we are often motivated, guided, or pushed toward focusing on those target skills our kids are lacking. We are often caught up in therapies, tutoring or trying to catch up to whatever norm “they” deem deficient in our children.

How different would our kid’s lives be if we could instead focus on their positives instead of always trying to compensate for those things regarded as negatives?

My youngest has generally struggled with school. He works hard. Really, really hard just to pass his classes which is especially frustrating as his older brother excels in school. Lan was very disappointed when his brother and childhood friends were off to the Magnet school and he simply could not join them.

However, Lan does have a talent for music in which his brother has been unable to best him. Both boys play piano along with other instruments. Yet, Lan has been gifted with “perfect pitch” something most musicians would love to have. Unlike other things that are difficult for him, anything musical comes much easier with a joy that surprisingly spreads to the people around him.

I started Lan in piano lessons as my version of occupational therapy. When he began writing in preschool, his fingers weren’t quite as strong as they should be. Piano lessons strengthened fingers that struggled to hold a pencil. Best of all, Lan enjoyed the lessons. Now, these same fingers draw intricate cartoon characters with very little effort. By focusing on what he could do, the door opened for another talent to emerge as well!DSC_7293 (2)

The more I hear incredible stories about so many kids on the spectrum and their thoughts, gifts and talents; the more I believe that everyone has something to give. Some people bring positive qualities out in others. Then there are others also on the spectrum blessed with things us “neurotypicals” can only dream of, skills or talents that often amaze and leave others speechless.

If only the time we spend during the school year striving to meet “goals” designated by other people, (I’m still trying to figure out who they are) could be used to cultivate those gems that lie dormant within, I wonder how many “atypicals” could more positively impact our world?

There are people whose gifts go unearthed because as a society we don’t prioritize searching those talents out. Instead we hammer people to conform.

I’ve seen a few miracles in the health care realm. I’m optimistic I’ll see many more with God’s grace and His power. The advances in science and technology lead me to believe there is so much more yet unseen. But we have to look for it!

So until “they” decide to focus on the person and not on an arbitrary set of goals and “normal” is designated for the individual instead of the masses, I will continue to encourage kids to search out and nurture the talents God gave them.  DSC_1350 (2)

If we don’t make searching out God’s gifts within our kids a priority, if we don’t build them up so they can unearth the beauty within and give them a sense of pride in what they can do instead of continually emphasizing what they can’t…who will?

As for me and my crew, we will continue to let the music play.

“The LORD [is] my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.” Psalms 28:7 NKJV 

  

 

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Perfect Pitch!

About two years ago, we discovered that my youngest son has something called “perfect pitch.” He can essentially hear any note played on any instrument and tell you exactly what that note is.

Now this may not be the most “practical” gift a person could have but it is one nonetheless. In fact, my concentration on what he didn’t have nearly blinded me to what he does have.

We were in a music store looking into trombone lessons a couple of years ago when Lan began talking with one of the salespeople which was a rarity in itself. Somehow or another, an instrument was played and Lan stated the correct note in response. The salesman began playing different instruments to see if Lan could continuously give the correct answer. He explained that Lan has “perfect pitch.”

Lan’s “talent” is now somewhat of a novelty with his fellow students in band class. The kids take turns playing various instruments and notes to see if they can stump him. So far no one has. It is something he is good at and it gives him pride and confidence I hadn’t seen before.

I admit I pushed Lan toward his musical inclinations. Not that he doesn’t love music, but my motives were deeper than that. I started him in piano lessons to strengthen his hands. This was my answer to out-of-pocket occupational therapy expenses. Lan was unable to grasp a pencil firmly and write legibly like his classmates. I figured piano lessons would not only strengthen his fingers and develop dexterity but stimulate his brain as well. Coordinating the notes he read on paper to the activity of his fingers would be a great mental exercise.

It would take the music teacher and me roughly two years before we realized Lan was rarely reading the notes! He can read music however we learned (slowly) that Lan has to only hear a simple melody once before he can play it on the piano. The joke was on us!

Sometimes in life we pay so much attention to what we don’t have, we miss out on what we do have. In my case, I was trying to develop certain skills in my child and focused so intently on that goal I was nearly oblivious to his emerging musical talents. I now encourage his musical pursuits not to facilitate a goal but because music is something in which he can succeed and enjoy.

Lately Lan has mentioned a desire to play the trumpet. I suspect the piano and trombone have become boring.  I will indulge his musical pursuits with the appreciation that for him, music is more than a pastime but rather a way that he can express himself and do it well.

I’m glad my eyes are now open to what he can do instead of fixated on what he cannot do. Now, if only I had this revelation all the time.

 I will encourage Lan to nurture his gifts, not based on practicality but rather instead because God blessed him with those things. 

Each of us lacks certain talents for sure, yet we probably possess so many more if only we would have eyes to see…

“And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability,” Matthew 25:15 NKJV

Dont Lose Yourself!

I remember a conversation with my boys not that long ago where I was trying to convince them that I really used to be a fun and interesting person, recalling a long gone pre-kids era. I didn’t see what was so incredibly hard to believe. Instead, both boys looked at me dumbfounded as if horns had grown out of my head.

It took a minute or two bu then it dawned on me. My kids couldn’t believe it because they had rarely seen it! 

My kids are accustomed to seeing me perform my usual maternal responsibilities of keeping them on track and as organized as possible. Or they easily view me from the perspective of my “day job” as mom’s alter ego away from home. These things are easy for them. Fun? Interesting? Not exactly two adjectives readily identified with mom.

Before I was immersed in motherhood, I had a social life, hung out with friends, went to concerts, read lots of books and did fun things that normal people do. Even after my kids were born, I managed to maintain a garden, collect comic books and still pursue my many varied interests.

But somewhere along the line slowly and insidiously more and more of my interests gave way and faded away as their extra-curricular activities swallowed up time. My interests deferred to theirs.

My household was running along just fine. My kids were okay. I could check my husband off my list as present and accounted for. Work? Check. Everything was in reasonable order…but I wasn’t myself. In fact, I no longer recognized myself.

I could only remember the things that gave me joy as faint memories because I had deprived myself of them for so long. Everyone else in my household was moving along just fine, but I was lost. I lost myself somewhere along the way of trying to be everything to everyone.

I’m not quite sure what prompted my revelation but I guess another birthday may have had something to do with it. When I realized that I have probably lived half of my life already, I had a new found determination to actually enjoy my life!

I concluded I was doing myself a disservice by robbing myself of precious “me” time (locked in the bathroom away from the rest of my family would no longer count) and that I was robbing my kids as well.

If my world always revolved around theirs, I would be lying to them. The real world doesn’t operate that way and there was no valid reason to set them up for such an unrealistic expectation. I also realized that instead of smothering my personal interests I could not only enjoy them but also share them with my kids.

My kids now have a vast knowledge of the Marvel Universe. This may not be the most useful information ever, yet it is oh so entertaining as we can discuss super-heroes until infinity.

My oldest son is now a most excellent baker of cookies and cake from scratch. My youngest is a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur, his home-made pizza is far better than any take-out.  Both kids have absorbed my love of cooking and nearly fight each other in  their attempts to conquer the kitchen.

My kids absorbed my passion for writing as well. They now write their own comic books and graphic novels creating characters and sketching them out. I am now “interesting enough” to consult about plot ideas, themes and costumes!

When we as parents allow parts ourselves to die, no matter how insignificant it seems at the time, we actually kill opportunities to share with our kids.

This decision to not just cast aside my own personal hobbies for my kid’s casual interests gave them a newfound respect for me as a person and not just their mother.

I can’t provide a balanced example for them to aspire to if I lead an unbalanced life. Lingering or latent resentment because I made a choice to diminish myself for the benefit of my kids actually benefits no one.

They don’t need a martyr. The do need a mentally and emotionally fit mother!

God created me not one-dimensional but with layers. I am daughter, wife, and mother each persona with varied facets. We are all gems that when turned toward the sun (or more accurately, the Son) reflect various degrees of light depending on how much we’ve been cut, honed or polished.

Sometimes we need a few cuts to better absorb the light. Sometimes we need to polish ourselves so that our best selves shine. Pursuing those interests that speak to us allow us opportunities to reflect God’s light on others and share His love with those we love.

It is in fact our responsibility to “use it or lose it,” in regards to those talents He has given us (Matthew 25:15-29). For what God has given us is not to be buried but multiplied instead! We multiply our talents when we share with others what we know and have. To bury our gifts is displeasing to God.

Learning that I don’t have to obliterate my own talents under the obligations of motherhood but that I can nourish them and share them with my children, provides them opportunities to learn new things, engage in new adventures and stimulate their curiosity in ways no video game or DVD ever could.

God loves me; of this I had no doubt. I had to re-learn to love me enough to nurture my talents and interests as God intended.

My kids and I now have more things to enjoy together. I have relinquished my role as just their “taxi driver” and relish my role as contributor and participant.

If you have lost a bit of yourself, I challenge you to find yourself and those things once held dear to you. Unearth those gifts, share them and allow them to make room for you!

It still takes a bit of diligence to maintain a good balance between me, them and us but it is well worth the effort.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see,” 

John Newton