Paddling along

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Ever heard of the duck analogy–how a duck seemingly glides across the water but is paddling like all get-out underneath? The duck isn’t trying to fool anyone pretending what he’s doing is effortless, he’s just doing what he does…paddling away, but to the outsider it looks like he is just gliding along.

We typically don’t discover the paddling it takes until we are directly involved…certain tasks look easy from the outside looking in, but when we start to do the task, we find that there are many “hidden” details involved that we hadn’t seen before. And it gets darn frustrating…how many trips to Lowe’s do you make once you have started a seemingly easy household project? How many times have you thought you could do a better job than someone else, and when you were in the position to do so, found out it wasn’t so easy after all?

If you have been following this blog, you know I’m an advocate for pushing ourselves to try new things, so this is not about shying away from something because every time you try something new it will be harder than you thought. Its about being a little more thoughtful next time you judge someone thinking you can do it better.  And if you want to get out there and do it better, go out there and do it! Become a mentor, a person others can push themselves to be. But, do not underestimate what the person before you did. Some people have been paddling like mad from a very deep and muddy pond to get to where they are now.

A few months ago, I called a sandwich shop to make a large order for a meeting, and young man answered the phone and took the message for me and said the owner would call me back. I don’t know how old he was, I could just tell he was young by his voice, maybe about 15 years old. I had gotten to know the owner somewhat, as I made orders at this shop for meetings frequently. When she called me back, I told her that the young man who took my message was very professional. I figured he was new, as he had never answered the phone before when I called, and I wanted her to know he did a nice job. Her reaction….crying. The young man happened to be her son, who has Autism, and they had been working extremely hard on his social skills. This simple gesture of kindness meant the world to her. Of course, I started crying then, too! This was a lesson to me, in that you never know what another person’s story is…you don’t know how darn hard they have paddled to get where they are, and a simple kindness can be immensely encouraging.

Another seemingly simple, yet encouraging act happened just last night. My son, Wil, who is almost 6 and has Down syndrome, got soap in his eye. I gave him a cold washcloth to hold to his eye while he lay in bed because it was still bothering him. About 10 minutes later, he got up, went into the bathroom, turned on the water to re-wet the washcloth and went back to bed. This seemingly spontaneous, self-initiated act of independence was the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated teachers, therapists and family over time.

Each little step toward independence is huge in the world of children with special needs. The ultimate goal for our children is to be as independent and productive members of society, as possible. There is a heck of a lot of paddling done by a lot of dedicated people to get our little ducks moving forward to the bigger pond. On the surface, it may not look that way, but believe me, a lot of paddling is happening and sometimes our feet get tired and it can be discouraging. So, to some, a simple compliment about a phone call at the deli might not mean much, but to that mother who has been paddling like mad for her son, wondering if they were getting anywhere, it meant progress.

Keep on paddling, and don’t forget to stop and give a high five to those on your way. You never know how darn hard their little feet are going as you glide by.

All the best,
Christie

PS:  Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/T21andTwins

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