I'm sitting in bed ready to go to sleep, but couldn't close my eyes until I described the events of the last two days. I don't want to forget the perspective and hope that I feel right now.
Todd and I took Matthew to Medford to visit our friends at the REACH Family Institute, the group we have been working with since last August that focus their lives on helping "brain-injured" children and adults. We first started working with them at the recommendation of one of Todd's patients, but I don't think I could have anticipated how we would feel less than a year later.
We left at 4 a.m. on Thursday and drove the 5 hours, arriving a little late. The first thing they do is evaluate Matthew--quiz him on the intellectual programs we've been doing, watch him run to see if there are changes in his muscle tone, crawl to see if there are changes in his cross pattern, watch him for signs of "reaction" to visual, tactile and auditory stimulus, etc.
A bit of background--part of Matthew's "program" with them includes flashcards made to very specific criteria. They include a word and then a picture of that word. Also, we put together books using some of the same flashcard topics and have pictures in those as well. Well, the first thing they did is lay out some of our books and cards so that they could quiz him a little bit to see how much he is retaining. Matthew immediately grabbed a group of flashcards, pointed to the top word, and said "fruit!" We looked....and sure enough, it was the word "fruit!" They tested him on several others to see if it was a fluke, and he continued to correctly identify SEVERAL of the words used in those flashcards!!!! I was amazed! Never would I have expected Matthew to be reading (or at least pre-reading) when he has just started to talk. An absolute miracle.
Also, meeting with them, after not being with them for four months, reminded me about just how much Matthew has progressed with his speech. He is pointing to and identifying objects, asking for things that he wants by name, repeating words that we say, and trying SO HARD to communicate. I am so incredibly proud of him.
There are days when it is really hard to parent Matthew. He can be obstinate, is so easily frustrated, gets obsessed with electronics, can be thoughtless and grabby, aggressive with his siblings, and so impulsive. And as he gets stronger, all of those behaviors become more and more challenging and, quite literally, painful. But after a couple of days like we just had where we were completely focused on Matthew, I am so filled with tender feelings for my little boy. I appreciate his sweet, happy personality, am impressed by his efforts to do things that are hard for him (a.k.a. talking), and just treasure my little boy. I sat in the car and watched him walk across a parking lot with Todd, not throwing himself on the ground with a noodle-body and forcing Todd to drag him, but rather just walking beside him, occasionally looking up at his Dad. I was SO filled with a feeling of gratitude that God sees us fit to raise one of his most choice spirits.
I feel so inadequate raising a child with challenges like these. I don't know if I do it right and I get so impatient sometimes. It is easy to watch what he isn't doing and want to feel sad or sorry for myself, or to compare him to typical kids and long for what we don't have. But then I watch him walking across a parking lot with Dad and I realize that we are doing something right....we are loving the heck out of this little kid and are sooo blessed that he is part of our family.
I'm doing a terrible job of putting into words just what an incredible couple of days we had. I felt like I recognized so many miracles over the past four months. What a gift it is to catch a glimpse of Matthew's best self and to be filled with wonder at the things he might be capable of if we continue to believe in him!