“Follow the dots” is a popular request from my son Zack. He never tires of connecting dots that form words and phrases.
“What do you want me to write?” I say.
I take the marking pen he hands me and create the letters F e r r y B o a t with dots for him to trace. Then he purposefully goes to work at the kitchen table, returning to show me his finished product.
“Good, Zack! But remember, the a has a little flag at the bottom. Otherwise it looks just like the o.” I take his hand and help him add the distinguishing mark.
He responds with “Follow the dots” and another phrase for me to create for him to trace.
Last summer Zack began to form the letter e—to actually make the straight line through the middle of the c shape and not just make it into a circle. I was ridiculously happy for days at this accomplishment. We have been working on it for at least 10 years.
In many ways, parenting a child or adult with special needs is like forming letters and phrases one dot at a time. The end result is not in view along the way, and we don’t always know if it will make sense or not. I remember one day when Zack was in kindergarten and I was overwhelmed. His teacher, Norma, actually made a house call to come to my aid. Today I can’t even recall what was happening, except that I didn’t know what to do at that particular moment (and at many others) to parent my child. I told Norma that, and she gave advice I will always remember:
Just do the next thing.
What is it your child needs right now? Don’t think about the rest of his or her life, or the rest of yours. Just do the next thing. Just put your pencil down on the page and make a mark from this dot to the next. That’s all you need to do today. Just think about what the moment requires. Then do it to the best of your ability.
One day at a time. One dot at a time. That’s what this blog is about. There are no experts here. Just parents, following the dots, making the journey with their children of all ages—and with each other.
What is the next thing you need or want to do for your child (or yourself)?