Welcome to Our House - The Analogy ©

Having a baby is special. For some, it’s a lifelong dream, for others, a wonderful surprise. Either way, many of us have thought about taking this journey and whether it’s planned or a pleasant surprise, we all have preconceived ideas about what our child will look and be like. But what if it isn’t what we planned or expected? This is a short story I have written for parents who have or are expecting an exceptionally special child.

Welcome to our House – An analogy

After many months of dreaming, you finally decide it’s time. You are going to build that perfect house of your dreams. You have saved and saved, and now it’s time to put your plan into action. You find a wonderful, perfect piece of land in the city. It’s exactly what you are looking for – because it’s the plan that everyone talks about. You envision the all brick house sitting on luscious green grass, surrounded by a white picket fence. Inside is a marble foyer leading into a family room with beautiful oak hardwood floors. Granite lines the kitchen counter tops and there is an island sink in the middle. Upstairs has four perfect bedrooms and the master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and an enormous walk-in closet, of course. It’s truly a dream come true, and it’s only a matter of time. You purchase the land and think to yourself, in nine short months, you will have it all.

But suddenly your agent calls to tell you, the land is not properly zoned, and the city has not approved it for building your perfect home. They have instead, given you land in the country, where an old country home sits. You are absolutely devastated, your dreams vanishing right before your eyes. You know you can’t back out now, you need a place to live, and despite it not being what you wanted, you know that somehow you will manage and that you can continue on.

You tell everyone what has happened, and everyone is disappointed, some even offering their condolences. You know that everyone else has a nice city home, and that was what you had planned, but you have to come to terms with the fact that you must learn to live in the country.

You go to see the property every month until closing and something funny happens. You start to fall in love with the place. The air is fresh, it’s peaceful and serene. There’s a pond on the land, and the house, though not a new all brick home, is quaint, and has lots of hidden potential. You soon realize it’s not a awful place, it’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than the city, less noisy and flamboyant, but it’s beautiful none the less. And in the process, you soon realize you may even get to meet some new and wonderful neighbours.

Its closing day and you suddenly find yourself full of anticipation, but you are still a little worried. After all, it isn’t what you had originally hoped for, and the house may need some repairs. But you are determined to accept it, and tackle everything one step at a time. You open the front door, and suddenly you are thrilled with what you see. The house is lovely, and has lots of character. The rooms are smaller but it’s decorated with beautiful attention and detail. The kitchen has marble instead of granite, and the bathroom has a soaker tub instead of a Jacuzzi. There isn’t a walk-in closet in sight, but the rooms all come with an indescribable view. Somehow, you just know that it was always meant to be and that this is now home.

This is my analogy of what it will be like for people who discover that they will be caring for a baby with Down syndrome. For us, it is not a terrible place to be, it is a journey full of surprises, milestones and discovery like any other child. And as the story suggests, sometimes it’s only a matter of ‘point of view’, and surprisingly, once you have been there, you don’t want to be anywhere else. The journey, like all others doesn’t come without some bumps in the road, but once you find your way, it’s all about the place you discovered, in most cases - quite by random chance
Author: Sandi Graham-McWade, Copyright
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Friday, March 18, 2011

My Journal - Week 81 (18Mar11)

Hunter's very 1st official swimming lesson!!!

As promised, I mentioned a few posts back that I would tell everyone how Hunter's very first official swimming lesson went.  In all honesty, I was more worried about Hunter being afraid of being handed off to a complete stranger and also how I would react to seeing him upset.  I really didn't believe that he wouldn't be upset since it has been quite evident that Hunter is experiencing the separation anxiety stage where a loss of seeing mom for more than a few seconds causes him some panic.  The reality though was more surprising than I had expected.  Hunter did fantastic.  My family tells me, I don't give Hunter enough credit.  The joke is, I didn't give myself enough credit either... I knew in my heart that I would be the one to have a more difficult time with his fears than he would and thus my packing a whole box of Kleenex to take to his lesson... for "just in case" I sprung a leak!

In perfect mommy fashion, I took my camera and also my video recorder.  Unfortunately the one way glass would not allow me to use the camera to take photos, but shooting the video was a go.  So, the following are five separate short takes of Hunter's entire 1/2 hour lesson!  As a side note, the crying you may hear in the back ground is neither myself or Hunter.  It was another small baby during her lesson, but oddly enough while she sounded like she wasn't enjoying her lesson, she actually was!

Beginning of Hunter's lesson (Part 1):
Here is Hunter, at his very 1st official swimming lesson. I really thought I would be using up an entire box of tissue as I had originally feared that Hunter would feel abandoned and scared for the lesson. Well, Hunter proved me wrong (once again) because he had a terrific time, despite the fact that we were no where in his sight for the whole lesson. Hunter did so very well, and I have to say I am so very proud!




Part 2:
Here is Hunter, doing very well, paying attention and learning.  More over, it would seem he's enjoying the water and taking in this new challenge of being taught "swimming" without his Mommy.  As you can see, Hunter is being instructed privately - one on one, despite being in a rotation with another baby. 



Part 3:
Here is Hunter, slowly becoming more acclimated to the water and his new instructors. I am still surprised beyond belief that Hunter is happy, excited and paying attention to his instructors. I had definitely not given Hunter the credit he deserved regarding handling separation from his parents at the same time as having to learn a new skill with strangers. Similarly, I also didn't give myself enough credit of being able to handle watching my son separating and not bawling my own eyes out!



Part 4:
Here is Hunter, doing very well, paying attention and learning. More over, it would seem he's enjoying the water and taking in this new challenge of being taught "swimming" without his Mommy. As you can see, Hunter is being instructed privately - one on one, despite being in a rotation with another baby.



Final part - Part 5:
For the final part of his lesson you can see that Hunter has done extremely well throughout the first 20 minutes of his lesson, but he is noticeably becoming less stimulated or surprised by his new surroundings which means that more typical "Hunter" behaviour has room to step in. Due to having no nap before swimming lessons, it appears that tiredness has caught up with Hunter and a slight rubbing of eyes comes into play. So with the rubbing of eyes, as well as the newness of his experience starting to wear off, a pout finally makes its way onto Hunter's face replacing the original yet surprisingly curious initial expressions. Although I am tickled and overjoyed with Hunters success and no fear attitude, Hunter wouldn't be Hunter without at least a hint of a tear for all that he had endured without his parents in reach and sight. Either way, I am tremendously overjoyed and extremely proud of my son for being as strong and emotionally calm for his very first swimming lesson and separation!  I can't wait for next week and hopefully Hunter is just as "fearless" next time!



B&C Aquatics REVIEW:
I have to say, the most important part to this whole experience, short of Hunter's success was his instructor Bonnie Buckler (the co-owner herself of B&C Aquatics), Ashley (one of the instructors and my initial contact for the company) and the facility itself.  The major differences between this private swim club and a recreational facility that has group lessons (aside from the price factor) is the care, attention and very specific professionalism that they demonstrate.  When I first contacted the organization, I was treated very personally, time was taken to explain every detail, their philosophy and how they instruct versus a general swim program.  I learned so much in about 10 minutes of speaking with Ashley regarding general recreational swim lessons and their private facility lessons and why it is so very important that they teach the way they do - which included explaining why they do not have parents in the pool, with the children or in view whatsoever.  Each lesson is structured around every individual child and not in a group mentality.  Progressions in the lessons occur when the student demonstrates understanding and an ability to perform, not based upon a time limit or how a group is structured to run.  Each instruction runs one on one, in a small group of no more then four students maximum.  In Hunter's case, there were only two students- which meant that Hunter learns a whole lot more then a group of six or more in a recreational setting.  I was further amazed in that when we arrived, Ashley came and spent literally the whole lesson explaining every detail about the lesson, what to expect of both Hunter and his instructor Bonnie during the lesson and more specifically exactly what Bonnie was doing during the lesson with Hunter.  She also addressed issues like what we can do outside of lessons to help Hunter, as well as things we shouldn't do that could hinder Hunter.  The pool temperature is always a wonderful 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the air temperature is no less than 91 degrees.  This is very important for mothers who are taking their babies for lessons and want to ensure that their child will remain warm.  The facility has regular change rooms as well as a family change room.  There is a comfortable parent viewing lounge with one way mirrored glass.  They also have a cafe attached to the facility with a full food menu for both children and adults.  I don't have a single negative thing to say about the club, even though the fee structure originally seemed very steep.  (I was able to get Hunter's 10 lessons for $49 on a deal which worked out to 78% off the regular price).  The program cost normally for his 10 lessons plus 4 kids meals would have been $218.00....

Now, after everything I have seen and been through one lesson for Hunter, I realize that sometimes great successes can come with a price tag.  The term "you pay for what you get" comes directly to mind in this case.  If however I do a true comparison in terms of prices, when you take any regular recreational community centre fee of $90-100 dollars for 8-9 lessons and understand that a class would contain more than 6 students to one instructor and then think how long it might take for a student to progress....  Or, the cost for a semi-private group (at the same recreational community centre) of 4 students at $149 for 8 lessons.  It then doesn't seem so bad that the cost of the private swim facility like B&C Aquatics who's fees are $185 for 11 lessons.  At first glance (without knowing all the details), it would (and did) seem very hard to justify nearly $200 for 11 lessons.  But it becomes very obvious after you do the comparison and see results why I will more than likely continue with the private club (versus the recreational centres) after Hunter concludes these 10 lessons.

I hope you enjoyed his lesson as much as I did!  It just goes to show (once again) that our kids are so willing and capable of doing whatever they need or want to and even if under tremendous pressure from their parents to excel!  I have always said, I expect Hunter to do everything and anything that any other child can or wants to do.  There is no reason for me to think, he can not.  He proves that every single day.  This is why I could go on for ever preaching about how "ranges" in Down syndrome have nothing to do with a child but all about the parents.  If you are not willing to expect your child to do well, then sadly you are setting them up for exactly that.  Push your children... all of them.  There is no reason not to.  When you expect them to excel, they will.  If you expect them to fail, they may do just that too.  I was recently told by a doctor who I am looking forward to working with in the future, there is no such thing as "high functioning" or "low functioning" children with Down syndrome.  I know this myself, and politely try to explain this to people who tell me that they see my child as very "high functioning".  My answer these days is, Hunter is typical.  It's often the parents who are either "high functioning" or "low functioning".

Stay tuned for more lessons!


1 comment:

  1. He did very well. I noticed that he was even kicking. How did he react once the lesson was over and he was returned to you?
    Keep video taping his progress it is interesting.

    ReplyDelete

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