Thursday, November 20, 2008

Three Teen Girls and a Baby Boy

At the end of October I met Three Teen Girls, my mentees at Teen Voices Magazine. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we spend two hours together working on their article. Four hours a week doesn't sound like much, but those hours are jam-packed with work, talk, and giggles. Those girls fill-up far more than four hours of my week and no one is more surprised about it than me. I think about the girls every day. I jot things down in my internship journal constantly. I look for tools and resources to help them with their work. I loosely prepare plans for our time together. Time consuming, eh? Why? The only conceivable answer is LOVE. I love the magazine, the work, and, most of all, the girls.

The girls. They have opened my eyes, my heart, and my mind.
My eyes are attuned to details, to each girl's individual world...
My heart is more expansive in responsive to the love the girls so willingly give...
My mind recognizes differences in similarities and similarities in differences...
Eyes, heart, and mind are less stubborn, less resistant, far more flexible...

I am so grateful for the girls' trust, honesty, hard work, and openness to possibilities. It is amazing that we are halfway through our time together. I am loving every minute.


One morning a week, I volunteer at Perkin's School for the Blind. I work with an eleven month old Baby Boy. Baby Boy has Nystagmus, possibly 80/20 vision, and low muscle tone. I work with him one-on-one in the early intervention classroom (two trained teachers are present) while his mother goes to an informational workshop with other parents.

Talking with people about Perkins, the common reaction is "How sad." and/or "Seeing what can happen, your desire for children must be much less." For me, there is only joy and my desire for children has remained high and possibly increased. I have always been an optimist, a wisher, a hope'r', and a dreamer.

"How sad." is never something I have felt at Perkins. "How amazing! How inspiring! How adorable! How strong! How beautiful! How smart!" Those are feelings I have had. Every morning I spend there with Baby Boy brings joy. Each successive morning, Baby Boy makes progress. The first morning I spent with him, he napped from 11 to 11:45, but each week he has slept less and less. As time goes on, I notice him sitting up on his own for longer periods of time, reaching for things that I place further away from him, showing me that he is growing physically stronger and that perhaps he can see further than doctors first imagined. He shows me his intellect by repeating actions I have shown him in the past such as banging two items together to make "music". This week, for the first time, when I laid him on the changing table he began furiously kicking his feet, grinning from ear to ear and giggling. Pretty fantastic for a little guy with low muscle tone. Often children with low muscle tone also have trouble with talking and start making sounds much later than normal, but Baby Boy talks more and more each week and especially enjoys talking with me and the giant teddy bear in the classroom. Baby Boy has taught me to live even more in the moment and pay even closer attention to every detail, any shred of progress, than I already do. He has also taught me to be more determined and to push myself well past the imaginary limits I may place on myself. Baby Boy is Joy. Joy leaves no room for sadness.

As far as my still strong, perhaps even stronger, desire to have babies, I don't see how volunteering at Perkins could ever negatively impact that desire. The parents I meet, especially Baby Boy's mother, are inspiring, empowered, and educating themselves in order to be the best parents and advocates for their children. It is a privilege to know them and to observe them. They are incredible and I am in awe. Working with Baby Boy, noting his progress, cuddling his cuddliness, imagining his infinite possibilities, reveling in his accomplishments... How could any of that decrease my desire for babies? Yes, of course these parents and these children have additional challenges, but I watch them continuously meet and overcome them. "but you must have some fear of your children having a disability..." you might venture. I acknowledge that there is always fear when one takes a chance and leaps into the unknown. Bringing a child into the world may be the ultimate gamble any human ever takes. I say, the bigger the gamble, the bigger the reward. I also feel that having this experience at Perkins, getting this hands-on education about differently-abled children, has so far given me greater confidence in my ability and readiness to deal with any challenges my children may have. My strong desire to have children is still intact.

So, fellow bloggers and blog readers, that is where I have been spending my time, with Three Teen Girls and a Baby Boy. Not quite Three Men and a Baby - "They changed her diapers. She changed their lives.", but, minus the cheesy tagline, better I wager.

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