When our children arrive at the doorstep of teendom—becoming less children and more adults—we parents feel a tremendous burden lift from our hunched, tense shoulders and rejoice in having arrived at this final frontier, the homestretch, the last leg of the tour. We can see the finish line up ahead, almost within our reach. As our children stand on the threshold of adulthood, we take pride in seeing them develop into independent, capable, intelligent human beings. If they are not ready to go out into the world just yet, they soon will be, and we delight that we have done our job and done it well.
Until, that is, we ask our children to do a rather routine task and find they are no longer able. In fact, they are incapable of doing so very many things they’d previously performed without much trouble that we start to wonder if something’s wrong. We think they may have contracted some rare, little-unknown disease–one that seems to be affecting their entire body but showing no physical symptoms. We become convinced our community is in the midst of a mysterious outbreak, because most of their peers appear to be afflicted as well. It’s so strange, because the tasks that are now too difficult were once so simple.
And we fear there is no cure.
But with time and practice, you hope they’ll be able to overcome this disability. You pray one day, they’ll be able to live full and happy lives. You persevere and alert others to look for the warning signs, because if caught early, you’re optimistic the progression of the disease can be slowed. Awareness is key, and knowledge is power. Make sure you know the signs!
1. Brushing their teeth.
2. Changing their clothes.
3. Opening the refrigerator.
4. Pouring a drink.
5. Putting dishes in the sink.
6. Making toast.
7. Loading the dishwasher.
8. Unloading the dishwasher.
9. Pushing buttons on the remote.
10. Getting up.
11. Sitting down.
12. Throwing garbage in the trash can.
13. Turning the lights on.
14. Turning the lights off.
16. Tossing dirty clothes in the hamper.
17. Petting the cat.
18. Peeling a banana.
19. Fetching the mail.
Although the list is long and rather unnerving, it doesn’t have to mean the end of a promising life. I’m convinced kids can be rehabilitated, and I’m determined to get my children the help they need. This disease may not have been studied or written about in any scientific journal and there may not be any proven treatments, but I’m not going to let lack of medical research hinder me. Instead, I devised my own therapy, and it seems to be working.
Now, whenever my daughter says she’s thirsty, and I say, “Go get yourself a drink,” to which she responds, “Oh, just forget it,” I say, “No, now I demand you get a drink.” She may roll her eyes and slide off the couch onto the floor before picking herself up and heading to the kitchen, but when she gets there, she is actually able to remove the iced tea from the refrigerator and pour it into a glass. It’s a real confidence builder.
When I sit down on the couch next to my son, who’s watching the 5,000th consecutive episode of Regular Show, and I ask him to change the channel, he still resists, but I assure him he can do it. There’s some debate back and forth, but eventually he slowly lifts his limp arm up off the couch and moves it over the remote control lying beside him. As his hand hovers over the remote, I say, “You can do it,” and finally he pushes down and presses the button. It’s all about encouragement.
And when both are doing their homework at night and I walk into the darkened room questioning how in the hell they can possibly read in the dark, to which they insist they can see their textbooks perfectly fine, I say, “Put the goddamn light on already, because I’m not paying for glasses when you go blind.” And they do.
I find once the children have tried and see they are, in fact, successful, it makes performing those tasks much easier the next time the opportunity arises. Eventually—five or ten years down the road, perhaps—you hardly even have to encourage them at all. This method might not be perfect and it takes some investment, but with time and persistence, I truly believe our children can overcome these challenges. Who knows? They may even some day walk again or pet the cat unsolicited.