Today, I have to confess that I’ve been suffering from a bit of hero worship lately.
Max and Millie (not their real names) can be seen in my town on the local sled hill, or skating, or they can be found chasing each other on main street in playful hide and seek fashion. Or they can be in hiding at home, spending a Saturday morning dueling on their game console or having tickle fights.
Meet Max & Millie
Max is six years old. Millie, his mother, is the object of my hero worship.
As a child growing up, I was not diagnosed. In fact, we had no idea what ADHD was. We’d never heard of it. I’ve told you before that I was not encouraged to think of myself as normal, but I was also not allowed to think of myself as abnormal or subnormal.
I know now that my mind fits neatly on the Autism spectrum. So does Max’ mind. He has Asperger Syndrome.
As I watch Millie and Max together I’m reminded of my mother and her determination to not let my self esteem fall victim to public opinion. Millie displays the same tenacity, I couldn’t help but question her.
I first asked her what the most important thing she believed she did for Max was? Her answer:
“Unconditionally love him for who he is.”
She wasn’t making this easy; everyone says that about their children. But I had expected that, so I asked her: what is the most important thing you do for Max that other parents may not usually do for their children?
“Be an advocate for him to support his success. The ability to do this is largely pinned on accepting your child honestly and without prejudice. Sounds easy but it isn’t. Most parents see their children as a reflection of themselves or transfer expectations. There have been many tears coming to terms with expectations. The hardest part is letting go of what everyone else deems as normal and embracing your child’s gifts. Every child is different and unique and has something to share with the world. The cool thing about gifts is that they come in different packages…my son’s wrapping paper is loud, unconventional, and hard to open…but there is something very special inside.”
Meet my new hero
Wow. See why I think of Millie as a hero. I had another question to ask, one I would ask of my own mother, if I could: “What is the most important thing you want Max to learn and know when you aren’t with him?”
“There was a boy named Max who was brave and strong and kind and unstoppable.”
Millie’s answer showed me how in tune she is with her role as Max’ parent:
“The answer to this is twofold. First thing (and perhaps most important in the long run) is a concept of self we have been working on for a couple of years now. Every night after we have brushed teeth and read stories…we tell a ‘pretend story’.
I started this to help my son’s social skills. He lived in his own world and retreated there frequently. As a result, it was difficult for him to have a conversation with more than one exchange (especially with his peers). I started the ‘pretend story’ practice where Max and I would build a story together. I would start off, he would add a part, then I would add a part etc.
It helped him to learn to listen and converse while simultaneously supporting his imagination and enthusiasm to share his world. Each pretend story starts off with this same sentence: ‘There was a boy named Max who was brave and strong and kind and unstoppable.’ I am hoping that that becomes how he perceives himself.”
The other half of Millie’s answer made me cry. I’ve resolved to believe that this is what my mother would tell me, if I were able to ask her. I leave you with Millie’s words:
“The second is a firm confidence that I believe in him and support him no matter what. It always makes trying new things and facing life’s challenges easier, knowing someone is behind you 100 percent.”