My friend Claire has taught me patience. In all our discussions about our daughters (who share an extra chromosome and a day at H’Art studios), Claire has always modeled patience—in waiting for speech to occur, in dealing with school boards, in addressing questionable vocabulary, in teaching healthy food choices, in problem solving health issues, and often, in listening to me rant and rave about our latest disaster/challenge/insight. She is a calm voice of reason and I am reasonably sure she was a Buddhist in some former life.
So I thought about Claire when reading one of Dave Hingsburger’s posts last week called Profound Rights: The Extra Five Minutes I Need to Think. And I thought about Beth hugging her pastor; and about Sammi participating in class; and about Jessie learning to zip up her coat just last year; and about Claire's daughter, country gal, picking up the phone all on her own (after years of absolutely refusing to even answer the phone or talk on the phone when someone called) and calling a coordinator to ask if she could join a program that she was interested in; and all the other individuals who just need a little. More. Time. To do what they have to do to become who they are to become.
I find I have to remind myself of this over and over and over again, because I forget so easily! We are a society that rushes, that values quick response, repartee, multitasking, and instant oatmeal (not to mention gratification). In the midst of all this, it is sometimes hard to remember to slow down, to give Jessie the chance to process and to grow. In both the short (5 minute) and the long (5 year) term. This perhaps, is one of my greatest challenges and one of her greatest gifts to me.
When I go out with Jess to engage in some of those daily tasks of living—such as going to the bank or buying groceries or making a transaction at the library—I try to remember not to rush her and to actively tell her that she can take as long as she needs. I also usually remind her kind of loudly (well, not loudly, but not in a whisper) intentionally, hoping that others will hear and will think: Hey, it’s okay to take as long as you need! And will remember that when dealing with her or any other person who might need a little more time . . . such as myself when my hands are full, or a caregiver, or an older person whose fingers aren't quite as nimble as they used to be. "Take as long as you need," seems to be the kind of mantra that we might all need to continue to grow, to keep faith, and to honour our children’s right for respect. It’s the rushing for response that takes their rights away at times, that makes them doubt their ability to make choices, to judge, to decide what is right for them.
I have to remind myself (or call Claire to have her remind me) that patience is a key quality in all parenting, but especially in parenting a son or daughter with an intellectual disability. It just takes Jessie longer to process, to learn, to apply, and to explain what is bothering her. Or to accept help when she so badly wants to do it on her own.
So we have a new rule, what I call the five-minute-plus rule (this, in addition to the rule of one, which I will blog about at some other time), which is not really a rule about minutes or numbers, but about taking whatever time you need and I will always be there, I will NEVER give up! Because I know you need to do it your way, and your way isn’t my way (even though I sometimes forget that, but that’s why we have friends to remind us that our way is not always the best way). But when your way doesn’t work, I can show you my way or we can figure out a way that does work. But I won’t make you do it right now. I will wait for you to be ready and for you to tell me.
Whew. That was long! That’s because I am just learning this rule. That’s because I’m really good at being bossy and impatient and certain that my way is best. It is, truly, a learning process. And I am so glad that Jessie is so patient with ME!