Saturday, September 17, 2011

Expectations and Understanding....

When Willie and I were expecting our first child, Collier, we were so excited and nervous at the same time. I remember lying in bed staring up at the ceiling just worried that everything  I would do and every choice I would make, now affected another being indirectly. I could feel the weight of parenthood on my shoulders almost immediately. But I was young, and strong and felt all would be well. I remember the terrified face on my husband about an hour after we found out that we were expecting...sheer terror followed the immense joy. We made plans for our new addition, we saved and bought baby paraphernalia. The days crept closer for Collier to enter the world. All ultrasounds came out beautiful and finally...he came to us. At 7 lbs and 12 oz he was perfect to us. He claimed the largest and sweetest chocolate brown eyes ever, sill does. As we endlessly stared into his huge and innocent eyes we dreamed about his perfect future. The world was his for the taking....

Ten wonderful years passed with us and Collier. He was such a wonderful child; full of love, politeness, and corky sense of humor. He took the role of "Big Brother" very seriously, and still does today. His future looked so bright as we raised him up in knowledge of his Savior and the world around him. Life was going swimmingly for him.

Then...the changes began to show...

The signs came one at a time then quickly escalated into many in the short span of three months.
First came the eye rolling. I could not understand why he was rolling his eyes at me suddenly. I thought he was being disrespectful. This did not fit Collier's behavior. It worried me, so I watched him...a lot. He denied being disrespectful and I soon discovered he really did not know he was doing it at all. The optometrist said his eyes were fine. Next came the head banging on hard surfaces, then the head bobbing. The pediatrician confirmed what I had already suspected. Collier had Tourette's Syndrome. We had to watch him for a year to see if the tics went away at times or if they remained constant. After a year of vigilance, he was officially diagnosed with Tourette's. We watched our little boy grow into adolescents with one of the most mis-understood psychological/neurological disorders. As if puberty isn't hard enough, right? Collier gets to experience it with the most awkward movements at the most awkward time of life.

Our long-held expectations sort of went by the way-side. We had to help him with a new anxiety disorder in the form of panic attacks, and a diagnosis of ADHD on top of all that. It is pretty normal for Tourette's patients to have other psychological disorders because most of these disorders are caused and/or effected by the same imbalances or neurological mis-firings. My heart broke for him each time he experienced severe panic in the form attacks. New fears come out of no-where and we must be ready at any moment to swoop in and help him. His tic s are very large as in range of movement. He has vocal tics as well (not the obscene language). I mention this hard road Collier has been through and still is to explain that the expectations we had for Collier's life when he was first born and throughout the first ten years of his life...drastically and suddenly changed. We did not even know what to expect from him anymore.

So....we researched, prayed, worked and taught him about his own disorders, and we watched and waited to see him come through and learn to manage this mighty trial. I want you to know that even though he is healthy, strong, and normal in so many ways, this burden to carry on such young shoulders can be overwhelming for him and he seems to collapse into the little boy he once was. It breaks a mother's heart. But I feel I cannot show him this. I must be the strong one he can come to and breakdown on.

As adolescents wreaks havoc on our home, we adjust daily our expectations from him. I decided to put him on the middle school swim team. He loves it and is doing wonderful in swimming and making friends outside of school and church (which was my goal). He just recently began to worry about homework, grades, and time for everything in his little world. He made a decision to skip the swim team bus for practise an hide in the bathroom until he knew it was gone. he texted Willie to come and pick him up. This through Willie into a fit. He assumed Collier was being lazy and trying to quit without quitting. Willie called me and told me to talk with Collier because he was too mad to communicate with him at the moment. So I waited until he got home...

I began to think how he is becoming a teen; which means laziness, weakness, selfishness and the whole bit. But I also thought how much I know my son, how he never does anything wrong, on purpose. He lives to make his daddy proud. He loves to share a good joke and make his father laugh. Collier feels like an equal when he is this way with Willie. He feels like he is a true friend and that his father really truly likes him as a young man. All of this is true and Willie feels the same and has stated to me "Collier has become by buddy." So when the two are at odds, I feel it is my job to remind my husband who his son has become.

You see, Willie, like so many others, still expect Collier to remain the same boy he once was and to respond in the same way as he would have or as Austin (his brother) does now. I talked with Collier about the skipping the swim bus incident. He told me this "I knew I was way behind on homework, was given even more homework and knew that if I went to swim practise, I would not get it one and would be so behind, I'd never catch up. I knew that I did not have the time to correct and catch up on my work and my grades would, I skipped the bus on purpose." OK. I have to say, this blew me away. We are always trying to teach him responsibility...and by gosh...he was tring to be responsible. He simply went about it the wrong way. So, my job as the parent was to teach him how to act responsibly towards his coaches and parents. I was so proud he made the choice to catch up on homework and make sure his grades are in good standing rather than continue going to practise and later blaming others. I was so happy. I had to explain it to Willie later why Collier acted the way he had.

Willie felt horrible because he had been too mad to communicate with his son about the mistake he had made. He felt so bad and apologized to his buddy. All is well between the two, but more lessons on what to expect from Collier is needed for both of us. He may not be capable of handling the world that was given to him. He may not be able to handle the "normal" expectations of the world of teens. He may not be what we expected him to be long ago when we held him in our arms...


He is so much more than I ever expected him to be. The ways he carries this giant sized burden at such a vulnerable and tender age is astonishing to me. He knows his priorities, he knows who he is, he knows we love him, he loves himself, he amazes me in his strength, self-confidence and understanding as we work together to help him reach his potential in this life. Mis-understandings will happen but knowing him and who he is will help us understand him better. Like it or not, knowing him means knowing his disorders and their affects on him.

Expectations are needed at some point to allow the other to reach up. It is a form of motivation, however, those expectations should be able to be flexible when life alters them so suddenly. As parents and humans it is our job to try to understand better when this does happen. Understanding leads to flexibility in parenting styles and ways of loving another. Collier teaches me new things weekly, but I am a much better person because of him. He has already exceeded my expectations and I understand him more and more each time I am flexible and willing to change my perception and see the true Collier. Oh How I love this boy with the biggest chocolate eyes EVER. And you know what.......

The world is still his for the taking.....

...and I know he will do just THAT!!!

(Collier at the Columbia South Carolins Temple; below: Collier at student art exhibit next to his art work)

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11th- Tenth Anniversary

I sat on the edge of the bed last night, glued to the horrific scenes displayed on the television, my boys surrounding me in abnormal silence as my husband turned up the volume. I sat there stunned, hand to my gaping mouth, tears streaming down my cheeks, and the sickening feeling in my gut that kept pushing its way up. The images I was looking at were the same images from ten years ago; September 11, 2001. "Where was I when the world stopped turning that September day?" As this Alan Jackson tune runs through my mind, I sit and try to comprehend, yet again, just what I am seeing.

I remember I woke up in a cranky mood. My young boys playing wildly at my feet. I woke in a horrible mood because Willie and I had a argument the night before. I remember feeling tired and wishing I had a few moments away from my boys to think, or to indulge in some self-pity or something. The boys however wanted more attention than I had to give. They displayed their needs in such ways as jumping on my bed and leaping to the floor. I yelled at them to leave my room. I felt bad for this, but was in no mood. I remember as one of them left the room, the statue of Jesus perched on my shelf came crashing down. I bent over to pick it up, it was broken. I remarked to myself "Well this is gonna be a BAD day."

I had no idea just how bad.

Willie called from work seconds later. He demanded me to turn on the television. He sounded scared.
I had never heard fear in my husband's voice before. So I went in the living room and turned it on. I stood there staring at the screen, phone in my hand, confused. What was I looking at? I recognized the World Trade Center Towers. I knew what Manhattan looked like, but I could not immediately register what I saw. I sat on the edge of the couch, perched there for the next hour as the story of the day unfolded before the world. I saw a burning skyscraper, I saw a plane fly into the second Tower, I saw smoke, so much smoke, I saw people jumping to their deaths, I saw firefighters with fear in their eyes, I saw ash fall and blanket the silenced city, I saw heroes go in and NOT come out, I saw people running from the scene, I saw Tower Two fall in on itself, I saw Tower One fall.


I heard sirens, I heard broadcasters in shock, I heard the crumbling of the towers caving in on themselves, I heard the litter falling like snow, then I heard silence.

I remember crying openly, I called my mom, I called my sisters, I called my friends. I cried. I remember making homemade chocolate chip cookies later in the evening as I remained glued to the TV. I held my boys close and cuddled on the couch with my husband..all arguments forgotten.

I had nightmares for years. Any large building I entered, I had to formulate an exit plan in my head. I still do this today. I imagine the "worst case scenario" in every crowded or large building. I hate parking garages and I am afraid they will collapse on me.

Friday night on the way home from a swim meet, Collier asked me if Willie and I remember September 11th. If we do, do we feel emotional still? This question was prompted by his Social Studies teacher as they were learning about the events of that horrible and historical day.

I answered immediately.."yes, Collier. I still feel great emotion for that day."

We taught him all things that we learned following those events and on Sunday night, September 11, 2011, TEN years later, I sat surrounded by my husband and boys all piled on our bed, and still sat shocked at the footage I saw.

We do live in a world that has changed from when I was younger. Our children grow up in this new world where terrorists take what they want, but I teach my children about terrorists in language they understand, I talk to them about fears and justice, sorrow and grief. I talk to them about the heroes honored and heroes fallen, I tell them about the power of God and of humanity, I tell them of love, forgiveness, and moving on, I teach them about kindness, patients, and understanding of others, and I teach them most about FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY, and the greatest of all....LOVE.

Whatever their future holds in this new world, I know they will be ready and will endure as God is with them just as I know he was with those who perished and sacrificed on that dreadful day.

With our Father in Heaven, we can rise again and again and again, never to fear or to fall.
These verses of scripture always comfort me in every trial I have ever gone is a special promise from Heavenly Father. May this promise bring peace to those who lost or deal daily with the burden of living through September 11, 2001.

"My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou shall endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over thy foes. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8)

"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if the fierce winds become thine enemy;if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up thy way;and above all, IF THE VERY JAWS OF HELL GAPE AFTER THEE, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The son of man hath descended below all thou greater than HE? Therefore, hold on thy ways, and I shall be with thee...therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever." (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-9)

I saw evidence of love, I saw man helping and sacrificing for others, I saw bravery in the fearful, I saw heroes born, I saw new spirits emerge, strength, determination, resolve, and courage. I saw the very Devil that September day as Hell's jaws gaped after Americans, I also saw the power and strength of God that September day. God emerged as the victor that day. God will alway be the victor and as long as Americans are on God's side, Americans will remain the victors!

God bless America, FOREVER!