This morning we had an appointment at the local health department with Benjamin’s audiologist to have casts made for new ear molds for his hearing aids. This is never a pleasant process. I have to hold his arms down and keep his head as still as possible while she examines his ears one at a time. After examining an ear, she pushes a small piece of cotton with a string attached to it down deep into the ear canal. She then fills the ear with a soft putty. This has to stay in place for a few minutes while it hardens to create a cast of Benjamin’s inner ear. These are then sent in to a lab that will make his new molds, which we will hopefully be able to pick up in a few weeks. My son hates this process. He doesn’t like things (other than his hearing aids, and on some days that’s still questionable) in his ears, and he struggles the whole time. Being held down makes him angry, and by the time the whole process was complete, he was a mess of tears and snot. I was hopeful that our next activity would be a welcome distraction and cheer him up.
The local health department hosts monthly play groups, each highlighting a different theme. Today they were holding their Christmas play group, with multiple crafts, snacks and a free book from Santa Claus. I had been planning for a few weeks now to take Benjamin, hoping he would enjoy being around other children and gaining some new experiences. The audiologist walked us down the hall to the center of the activity. My son was still teary-eyed, and the commotion of the busy play group seemed to only add to his distress instead of capturing his interest. As I carried him around, examining the different craft options, he continued to fuss and cry, and I felt like all eyes were on me (though that may have just been in my head more than anything). All of the tables were being manned by students from the local technical college.
I decided to start at a table to make a pasta necklace, with dry noodles painted red and green. I awkwardly held Benjamin, trying to talk to him about the craft as I slid noodles over a covered wire. I finished it quickly, and the students helped to secure it around my son’s neck. He was not impressed. Within 5-10 minutes he managed to rip it off, scattering noodles on the floor. Some of the pieces were broken in the process, and his necklace found it’s final destination in the trash can. Sigh…
After making the necklace, we headed over to a play corner that was really designed for babies, but I hoped a musical toy would calm him down and hopefully alter his crabby mood. It was not to be. Benjamin pushed away the toy I tried to entice him with and continued to cry, while a baby about a third of his size sat and played contentedly. I started lifting him up over my head and kissing his tummy which scored me some smiles and giggles, but it was short lived. As soon as our little game was over, the fussing resumed.
We made our way to another table where you could make a candy cane with a pipe cleaner and red and white beads. We didn’t even begin this one. Benjamin tried to dump all the beads on the floor, but we caught him in time, and he continued to throw his fit. I awkwardly excused us and headed to the side of the room to chat with a few of the coordinators, explaining the effects of his audiologist appointment. It was during this time that the pasta necklace met its demise. They were understanding, and I knew I didn’t have to justify my son’s behavior, but I was feeling both disappointed and embarrassed.
My next idea was a trip to the bathroom to give him a brief change of scenery. This appeared to work, until we re-emerged into the play group room and Benjamin began to cry again. Now, at this point I should have got us bundled up and headed home. I had so been looking forward to this morning, though, so I held on to the hope that something would capture his attention, and we could make a fun memory together. I decided to sit down with him for a few minutes so he could just observe things from a safe place and chatted with the woman beside me. I was waiting for a spot to open at a craft table where we could make an ornament and a Christmas door hanger using foam stickers. When a chair opened up, we headed that way. I was hoping Benjamin would enjoy placing stickers, but he had no interest and continued to fuss while I quickly made him an ornament and a door hanger and tried to talk to him about it step by step.
At this point I knew there really was no use in staying. I did want to get him a free book from Santa, and while we waited for one child to finish up, I took my son to a station where a young woman was hot-gluing pom-poms onto popsicle stick snowflakes to make Christmas ornaments. Each child could pick out the colors they wanted. Benjamin was slightly interested in pulling handfuls of pom-poms out of the bags, but his idea was to then throw them on the floor. He had tried to throw multiple things on the floor by this point and had succeeded with some, including the door hanger Mommy was working on and his right hearing aid. The young woman quickly finished his ornament and handed it to me. I was happy that Benjamin at least played a part in picking out the colors, even if it was by default.
We headed over to Santa’s corner, and his helper presented my son with a small book. He asked us a bit about our Christmas plans and tried to get Benjamin to give him a high-five. My son just looked at him not knowing what to think and continued his complaints. I knew I had kept us there too long. We got our coats on, I strapped Benjamin in his stroller, and we made our way for the door. As we crossed the room, I looked longingly at all the small children happily making crafts and walking from table to table. I knew many of them were probably close to my son’s age, some older, some younger. I felt so alone. “Well, we tried,” I said to one of the coordinators as we reached the doors. She encouraged me “That’s all you can do,” and gave me a flyer listing dates and themes for future play groups. I thanked her and we went on our way.
I felt such disappointment in my heart as we drove home. I recognized some of my own selfishness too. Did I want the experience for my son’s benefit or for my own? When he didn’t respond in the way I wanted him too, I was upset. He hasn’t reached the “somedays” I dream about yet, and I can’t make him get there on my time-table. Today I’ve been reminding myself that while it’s ok to look forward to the “somedays,” I don’t want that longing to rob me of the ability to enjoy my “todays.” I want to cherish every season of my son’s life, knowing that there will be joys and frustrations, victories and obstacles all along the way. The “somedays” I dream about now will some day be only distant memories, and new “somedays” will appear on the horizon. There is treasure to be found in today, though, and wisdom to be gleaned if I keep a teachable heart. All of my “todays” and all of my “somedays” are given as a gift to prepare me for the great “Someday,” when my faith will truly be made sight, and I see my Jesus face to face. I want to live in anticipation of that “Someday,” and I want to raise my son to do the same. His disability is but for a moment; his wholeness will be for eternity.