Letting Go

Not to be confused with, “Let It Go”, made popular by the Disney movie, Frozen.

When Jacob’s brother was a senior in high school, I started getting all sentimental. That year, I read an article about letting go. A reminder that our children are, for the most part, under our influence their first 18 years or so. In short, it said, you’ve raised your child to be independent, now it is time to let them spread their wings and fly. If we’ve done our jobs right, they have learned to live ‘on their own’.

We watched Josh grow from a baby to a toddler to a teen to a young adult. ‘The days are long but the years are short‘ is so very true. It went by extremely fast!! Each step there were teaching moments to embrace and milestones to be celebrated. And all of a sudden, in what felt like ‘in the blink of an eye’, he’s a man. He has stayed true to the covenant commitment to his wife, is the founder of a successful business, and parents their three daughters. He’s been ‘out of the house’ longer than he was in. And I remember all the mixed emotions I felt while waving good-bye to my newlywed son as he and his bride drove 1200 miles to spread their wings. (Tomorrow is his birthday, perhaps that is another reason I am reminiscing.) Happy Birthday Josh!!!

From the time they were born, it was our job to teach them to not depend on us. To make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes. To reward honesty and selflessness.

We aimed to teach kindness and compassion. Diligence and determination. To be generous and grateful. To live by Proverbs 3:5-6. Those things would come in handy. Did I take advantage of those years?

We are different, were we up to the task? (I know, every family is different—thank goodness.) We got married. (Happy 42nd Anniversary to us.) Bought a house, got a dog, and had two children. And we set out to raise our little humans to be independent, productive members of society.

And it was easy and it was hard. Our two sons were/are opposites. One was stuck while the other moved forward. One met and/or achieved while the other struggled. Sometimes the ‘easy’ was with one and honestly, sometimes it was with the other.

With one, it seemed he was a toddler, crying at swimming lessons one day, and driving two states away to a summer job the next. With the other, he was a toddler and tween and teenager but the changes were blurred and some days we didn’t know which stage we were in. Jacob never really graduated from the toddler stage all the while dealing with teenage hormones. And I didn’t have to let go and watch him venture out far from his safe place with just the three of us.

There was an overwhelming sadness of letting go of Josh. Mixed with equal joy and confidence of knowing he could and would ‘make it on his own’. And in the same moment, I think about the different types of letting go I’ve faced with Jacob. Some hard. Some easy. No waiting up to be sure he made his curfew. Or helping with a college application. Or late night talks about life. I had to let go of control, in a sense, with Jacob’s school setting, day programs, and trusting sitters in our home. Those were minor compared to letting go of how I imagined our lives. The dreams of what he’d ‘be’ when he grew up.

In all this, I am thankful we were given different paths to walk with our sons. We haven’t missed out on a thing. Every family with more than one child gets the unique opportunity to parent each child as their temperament dictated. With Jacob, the days are long and, frankly, sometimes so are the years. But those years have kept us from experiencing the empty nest and I really love my nest the way God built it.

Next week: I Need You

Haircut Shortcut

When Jacob was a little tyke, I asked the gal that cut my hair if she would give him a trim. She knew enough to know it might be a challenge but was willing to give it a try. I don’t remember his age but he was small enough to sit on my lap. What I do remember was that it did not go well. For anyone in the salon. Was it so bad I blocked it from my memory? Nah. I just knew I didn’t want to put either of us through that again.

My sister-in-law had given me a lesson cutting hair using Mike as the model, in their parent’s carport, probably 40 years ago. I was comfortable cutting his hair so felt I could cut Jacob’s as well. It’s interesting because it does seem that fairly often I’ll hear of another parent, of a special needs child, taking on the barber role, too. Whatever it takes to reduce stress for our sons and daughters.

Somehow we managed. Even though scissors and a child flailing their arms, standing up and down, and twirling is downright dangerous. He was constantly trying to hold my hands to end the session. I’d create a space hoping to keep him somewhat occupied and entertained. A candle burning, a spinning toy, and music playing. The promise of chocolate. Sometimes I’d have to call in for reinforcement and other times I made it solo. I’d also let his hair get too long before making myself cut it and I’d cut it pretty short so we could go as long as possible in between.

Then a fella invented something quite unique. It would suck hair into a blade, cut it, and then the cut hair would be pulled through the hose into a vacuum cleaner. And the commercials did the trick making people want one, for 3 easy payments of $19.99!

Who ever heard of such a thing?

A haircut, no scissors, what do you mean?

Grab that vacuum cleaner with a hose,

Attach to the blade and spacer you chose.

Turn the machine on and wait for the buzz,

Prepare to be shocked with what that thing does!

The Flowbee hit the airwaves in 1988.

We were among the millions who took the bait.

Yes, Mike decided he would buy a Flowbee and then he could cut his own hair. And I decided surely it would be easier and safer to cut Jacob’s with a protected blade than pointed scissors! We had discovered a shortcut to his haircuts. And it worked for years and years and years. The only down side was the noise of the vacuum could be bothersome. And I did continue to use scissors some. Still it was better than the alternative.

Sometime last year, I decided to try regular hair clippers. We hadn’t tested that route and there were a lot of good options available. Downside– with every snip, hair is flying. Upside—much quieter than the Flowbee. And, ya know what? It worked really well. I continue to make it as appealing and pleasant as I possibly can, but he’s gotten to where he is a really good sport about it. I still let him get rather shaggy before snipping but it is only because it is easy to postpone.

So through the years, we’ve tried a hair stylist, yours truly, a Flowbee, and clippers. And we have a standby plan in our pocket if any of those were to fail us.

I’ve mentioned before about having neighbors in our home. It one of my favorite things to do because I value knowing the people around us and them getting to know Jacob and meet him in his territory. About a year ago, we hosted a neighborhood Walking Taco Party. In the group, there were three people attending that we had not met. As the evening wound down, we visited with the last remaining couple. I had met the lady, previously, but not her husband. And, I already knew she had some experience with special needs. As we spoke, I learned the man is a barber. He was asking questions about Jacob and explained that he has a number of special needs clients where he works his magic. I told him that I have cut Jacob’s hair for as long as I could remember. Then. Then, he said, “well if you ever need someone to cut Jacob’s hair, I’d be glad to be that person.”

In Jacob’s 40+ years I don’t recall an offer that has left me almost speechless. I was blown away. I kept playing it over in my head. Is that not the best kind of standby plan?!?!?! Thank you C for your genuine offer. I won’t forget it and one day, we will give you a call!

Even though Jacob wouldn’t volunteer to get his haircut, he obviously enjoys the end result. Because I go too long between trims and I cut quite short, it is really noticeable when he does get one. (As pictured above.) Without fail when he’s gotten a ‘fresh’ cut, someone will say something, “Jacob, you got a haircut!” “Jacob, I like your haircut!” “Jacob, you look so handsome!”

And I see the corners of his mouth turn up and his eyes twinkle. He’s feeling pretty good about himself which makes me feel pretty good, too!

A+ Appointment

It is accurate to say that through the years I dread every doctor or dentist appointment scheduled for Jacob. Sometimes that was unwarranted but, in the name of ‘that’s just what I do’, there is a certain amount of anxiousness leading up to visits.

When Jacob was really young I discovered, during an after-hours visit, that I liked a particular pediatrician better than the one we started with when he was a newborn. And so I changed doctors within a clinic. Would you believe our first one, Dr. A, actually phoned our home asking why I had changed? That was the beginning of realizing I couldn’t worry about hurting someone else’s feelings, I had to do what was best for our family. Dr. S and then later Dr. Y were a good fit and were as patient as the day is long with Jacob’s anxiety and my questions. Eventually, Jacob outgrew the Children’s Clinic and we realized it was time to go to a General Physician.

When he aged out, we talked to our family physician about seeing Jacob and he was more than willing. Dr. H is fantastic with Jacob. He puts us all at ease but Jacob is still a little nervous about being there. Doesn’t want to be touched or poked. Doesn’t want anyone looking in his ears. Checking his joints. You get the picture. Often, we have to be on either side of him just to hold his hands. I find myself singing quietly to him and assuring him it’ll be okay.

Thankfully, we don’t have to go often for illness as he doesn’t get sick a lot. And, Dr. H does everything he can to accommodate us. But, every few years a check-up is required and I watch the date on the calendar with apprehension building.

I don’t like sitting in a waiting room with sick people. Who does? But I especially don’t want to sit in a waiting room with Jacob. Even though he is mobile, we take him in his wheelchair as he feels safer and so do we. But in a waiting room, you get those questioning stares. And, even worse, you breathe unwanted germs. So we tag-team. One of us checks in while the other waits in the car with Jacob. Then when they call for him we move fast to get him out and through the waiting room quickly.

First stop is weight check. It’s interesting to watch Jacob step on the scales. He’s a good sport about it but there’s a degree of hesitation. Then to the exam room. Often he stays in his wheelchair for everything but the weigh-in.

Last month it was time for Jacob’s check-up. Here we go—this time Mike goes in to let them know we’ve arrived while Jacob and I wait in the van watching a DVD. Almost immediately Mike is returning to tell us to come on in. We did and they were ready.

He weighed and then wanted to walk to the room (rather than ride in the wheelchair) which was great. He sat quietly in a chair while the nurse asked us questions. He let her put a blood pressure cuff on him which was quite amazing. Dr. H came in followed by two students shadowing him. So in this tiny exam room with Jacob, there were, us two parents, one doctor, two students, and the nurse coming in and out. And would you believe he was PERFECT! Yes, Jacob gets at A+ for that appointment.

Not that I’m signing up for another check-up sooner than necessary but it was amazing how smooth and quick that one went. I am so very thankful for others who go the extra mile when that distance is just too much for us. We left with smiles on our faces and in our hearts for sure.

That morning as we were on our way to the clinic, I got a text from my mom: Praying for y’all and Jacob’s check-up. She knows. The clinic we’ve gone to for years, they know. And most importantly, God knows.

….. for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:8

Keyboard Inventory

If you’ve followed us long, you know that Jacob gets attached to certain things. It’s usually not a problem unless the ‘thing’ we are replacing doesn’t live up to the exact same standard as the original.

He has loved a keyboard for as long as I can remember. Some have been small portable toys that he could carry around, hold to his ear, and twirl to the music all through the house. Others were bigger ones needing a stand. In 1994 we bought his first large one and it lasted for years bringing him hours and hours of pleasure.

When it bit the dust, that particular model was no longer available. We settled on a similar Casio and although he did protest, he finally made the transition and accepted it fully. Once it ’wore out’ it was time for another search. A search that did not produce results! By then Jacob had strong, strong opinions and in his mind only one model will do.

We scoured Ebay and local Craigslist finding nothing. Finally, one day I found a keyboard in a nearby town that wasn’t exactly like the old one but hoped it would work for him. It had nice features and was in great shape. It looked like it was going to be fun!! And he hated it. (Sorry Yamaha.) He wanted nothing to do with it. Would not allow it to be left in his room. Out of sight!!

Typically it is the pre-programmed tunes that he listens to the most and so it makes sense if those songs are not identical to what he has been playing, it causes him stress. Maybe even alarm.

Back to finding an exact match and finally his super hero daddy did so. Life was good again in the keyboard category.

Until Jacob tore off a small button. One that neither of us, parents, knew its function. But Jacob did and even though he was the offender when it came to the button being gone, it was our job to find it and put it back in place. I’ve mentioned in another post about all the things I’ve done to try to make a new one. Check out that second picture of the button I made out of putty. Although it wasn’t going to make any connection, I was hoping he would be appeased. It didn’t last a day with you-know-who. We knew it might be time to start the search for another keyboard.

Jacob is rough on his ‘things’. By now he has destroyed the keyboard stand and we tried something we thought sturdier. Made of wood instead of molded plastic. He was able to splinter it as well.

Another keyboard was scored and a new stand was purchased. Life was good for my guy(s). The gallery of pictures above gives you a glimpse of how important a keyboard is for Jacob.

In Jacob’s zeal for putting his keyboard to the test, he recently has broken off keys. BROKEN. Not snapped where we can simply snap back in place. Broken. But funny thing is, he doesn’t seem to be too bothered by missing keys.

Knowing how hard it is to replace something that is no longer being manufactured, his dad decided we might should have a back up to expose him to for the day when our luck would run out on replacing his standard.

He now has two keyboards in his room. His favorite one with missing keys and his back up. When we first gave him the back up, he pretty much didn’t want it anywhere near him. But, every now and then we’ll hear him playing it. I think he is being sneaky because he doesn’t want us to know he might actually like it.

Seems he was rearranging his musical inventory and everything collided. (Those are his two keyboards along with his MP3 player.) One day this past week, I heard him coming down the hallway and he was carrying the back-up keyboard bumping the wall with every step. I quickly took it and he made it clear he didn’t want it in his room right then.

It takes some thought, research, and creativity to keep his inventory acceptable. We always have our fingers crossed that we are meeting his standards!!