By Holly Ruxin
I’m not really sure of the specifics of how this message came across to me as I was growing up, but I am pretty sure that the resounding message across the board was: achieve. Achieve good grades, achieve acceptance into a good college, achieve acceptance into a good graduate school, achieve a good job, achieve money, at some point achieve a relationship and a family. And if you can achieve each of these tangible accomplishments, then you have a life worth living. I don’t suspect those words were ever spoken to me exactly like that. But I am pretty sure that the message was continually communicated through my parents, teachers, mentors, family members and friends.
So I worked to achieve - and to achieve the life on paper that looked like I had it all. And then one day I didn’t, well at least not on paper. After having a wonderful baby boy who was growing into a wonderful toddler and then into a thriving young child, something wasn’t progressing the way it was ‘supposed’ to. Milestones were soon not being met and at the old age of 4, almost five years of age, our prefect son started missing and then losing all of his milestones: his ability to talk, to walk, to use his hands, to pretty much do anything physically or outwardly mental.
While any situation like that is difficult to comprehend and deal with, the slowness of which this all transpired over the course of several years was especially difficult to get one’s mind around and incredibly more difficult for the heart to understand. This situation was not helped by the fact that no one seemed to know what was wrong with him. All of the accomplished doctors who had achieved their education at the top hospitals, held jobs in the top think tanks, and had achieved renown in their fields – they were at a loss. And thus were we. As the years went by and the prodding and poking and traveling and discoveries led to dead ends, we came to understand the deep limitations of our knowledge about the brain and the vast limitations of even those who had achieved all that they were supposed to. The ones who had accomplished all that they were supposed to as society defined for them, still could not help.
There are a myriad of issues to navigate and are involved with taking care of a child who is losing skills -- therapies, schooling, testing, and the list goes on. But the most difficult thing for me to wrap my head around was what am I going to do with a child who can’t achieve? A child who can’t achieve all of the skills and tangibles in a lifetime that I was taught that mattered. For our young son: talking, and art, and drawing, and reading, and sports, and getting into schools, and making friends …. all of the things that my friends and other family members with kids were focused on around me, he was clearly not going to achieve any of it.
How do I not feel like a total failure? If my child can’t keep up with the expectations of the society that we live in, any of the expectations, then honestly, I couldn’t figure out what ultimately was the point of his existence? And I struggled with this thought for more time than I am even able to admit. Until finally I started seeing how misguided I was and how I was looking in the wrong direction and how I had been taught to look in the wrong direction. I was facing the wrong way.
This is not a realization you come to overnight or even over the course of a year. This is a realization that you come to after years of thought and observation and honesty with yourself and with those around you. What I started to realize and the new direction that I was now facing was the beginning to a new understanding. Instead of all of the tangibles I had been taught to focus on, the achievement I and most people I know were striving for was ultimately to be treated with love and kindness and respect, and to ultimately treat all others in the same vein.
It has taken me years to understand what that means. And striving for that understanding takes one small step taken one at a time. Over the course of my experience, any time that I questioned the way forward and got caught back in the old messages of our day, all I had to do was look at my eldest son (all kids exude this innocence and understanding). And finally what became so abundantly clear to me is that Trevor has achieved more in his short lifetime than any person whom I have ever known. I began to understand that he was born with the understanding of how to garner unconditional love from anyone around him and born with the ability to give unconditional love back no matter what the circumstance – he exudes only kindness and compassion and heart. And as a result he vastly changes the lives of every person he meets. He is an incredibly bright light who smiles at strangers, who can’t talk but has laughter that can melt an icecap, who never complains, who sees joy in the simplest of gestures.
Trevor has achieved something that as a parent I can only ever hope for my other two children and for myself and for any human being: he has achieved the ultimate goal of peace born out of kindness and love for one another.