Page 3 of 3
By Melinda Sacks
Throughout Alex's childhood therapists and experts of every variety have given us advice. Talk to him about his disabilities, they told us. Get him to acknowledge what is hard for him (sometimes it seems just about everything has been hard). Be realistic about what he can do in the future. We listened to such advice for years while the kids around us won scholarships, athletic competitions, were accepted to Ivy League schools, and traveled to exotic countries to study abroad.
At our house getting through the day without a call from the principal's office or a progress report claiming, "Alex will not stop talking in class," or, "Alex never turned in his essay on To Kill a Mockingbird, therefore he received an F," was a major accomplishment.
Ironically, Alex has rarely wallowed in his difficulties. Some would say he is in complete denial. But the truth is that I think it's important for him to hold onto his belief that he will someday make a lot of money, drive a nice car, live in a two-story house, and run his own school. As one therapist told us when Alex was a little boy, "Alex gets up every morning and puts on his suit of armor. He can't allow a chink in it, or a criticism to get through, or everything would crumble."
So we walk a fine line, telling Alex he can do many things but that each one takes lots of hard work. But we never say never.
It's hard for me to imagine Alex moving out, even though he is 6 foot 1, almost 19 years old, and holding down two jobs. After all, he still doesn't want to stay home alone when my husband and I go away overnight, although he doesn't like to admit it.
I'm not sure if he'd shower and shave if I didn't nag him.
He might live only on ice cream and Oreo cookies if left to his own devices.
But then Alex will surprise us with some comment or action that proves he is far more thoughtful and independent than we give him credit for. He helps an elderly woman who has fallen and walks her home to be sure she is all right. He cooks pasta for the 8-year-old he babysits and loads the dishwasher before the parents get home. He calls the junior college he plans to attend and gathers information about working at the school radio station, and then sets up a meeting to visit.
My husband and I look at each other and our heart's swell with pride, and with hope.
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