» living life Upside Downer

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sometimes there is fallout

I love my children with such intensity that I’m amazed that I don’t explode (literally) into a billion bits.

Tonight I had a chance to bond with Zoë as I taught her how to ‘start’ riding her new (old) bike that she bought yesterday (using some money in her savings account) and it was an experience filled with excitement, joy, pride, fear, shame and sorrow.

I know those last two words may seem a little shocking? How could these things happen in the midst of such a joyous occasion? I’ll take you there…

photo by Jen Downer of She Saw Things Photography

The following exchange between Zoë and I came after she first realized I was running behind the bike but no longer holding the banana seat:

Zoe: “Wahoo! (deep sigh, then in a quiet voice) I should have learned to ride a bike when I was 5 years old (sounding and looking embarassed).

Rob: “Hey! You are totally doing this… I am so impressed with how well you’re doing… You should never be ashamed, or embarrassed about not learning to ride when you were 5. That’s MY fault.”

Zoë: “It’s just that I see little kids riding and I’m 9 now”

Rob: “It’s not your fault, it’s mine. I am so sorry that we are so overwhelmed. I really want so badly to not feel overwhelmed and you need to know that I love you and think you are way cool and absurdly awesome.”

Zoë: “Thanks Dad (she tries to hug me and falls over)”

Rob: “You okay?”

Zoë: “Yes, I guess I’m overwhelmed, or maybe I’m gonna fart? (she chuckles)”

Rob: “Seriously though, you need to not  feel ANY shame or embarrassment. You just need to feel determination and pride because you are making it happen. You will succeed if you believe you can ride.”

Zoë: “Okay, thanks dad”

She then rode her bike by herself (wobbly at first) down the sidewalk.

This may not seem like a big deal. Kids from all walks of life learn things at different ages. Some kids never learn to swim, others don’t learn to ride bikes, or play musical instruments, or sports, etc. Some kids never have the opportunity to do any of these things. These things I am aware of, they are things that I feel a great deal of empathy and compassion for.

The big deal for me is that I feel bad. I don’t like to see my kids feel shame or embarrassment for things they shouldn’t feel embarrassed about or ashamed of. The reason that Zoë hasn’t learned to ride a bike is me. I have been putting it on the ‘shelf’ for 4 long years and it broke my heart tonight.

This will pass. I’ll get over it. I just felt really raw because we spend so much of our time and resources on Sam; keeping him safe, keeping them from killing each other, Sam’s day-to-day needs.

The great news is that Zoë is on her way to being a bike rider and this will ultimately get the whole family out on bikes.

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July 2, 2012 - 6:53 am

kati - dad guilt… sounds like it’s right up there with mom guilt! ugh! the worst! someone needs to tell you that you guys are way cool and absurdly awesome and you are making it happen. -signed, the mom guilt queen

July 2, 2012 - 6:28 pm

Rob - It’s a rough one Kati. We’re often so very unnecessarily hard on ourselves (as parents) right? Maintaining the high levels of energy involved in parenting a child is big. Then I’ve found that adding Autism to that mix, while balancing the needs of a ‘neurotypical’ kid who doesn’t need the same constant supervision is intense. One could argue that these things that Zoë experience are vital components of building character. It’s moments like last night when I stop and realize that so much time has passed (in which I have said “I’ll get to that next week, or next month, etc.” so many times that weeks turn to years) and I mourn it a little. Somehow I have found that sharing these things allows me to immediately come back fighting with as much positivity as I can possibly muster. That’s the Gemini in me I guess ;o)

July 2, 2012 - 6:55 pm

Shelly - I think that this is what my friends call “benign neglect”! I think that itʻs a rough one for everyone involved. It is difficult for siblings of children with autism, as a comparable family dynamic generally plays out (possibly except for families with multiple children with autism). Although Z is comparing herself to younger children, there are some adults that have never learned how to ride a bike (my Nana being one of them)! It sounds like you did a great job of taking the responsibility from Z about an activity that you agreed to share, but didnʻt get around to. And understandably so. But I also want to encourage both of you to not be hard on yourselves! My point being: You are doing it now. 🙂 Ride on Z (even if you have to fart)!

July 2, 2012 - 9:35 pm

tara pollard pakosta - Tell her my daughter didn’t learn to ride a bike until just before she turned NINE, yes 9, years old! just like Zoe! Nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about at ALL! Ava was not going to do it until she felt she could 100% do it herself so I just let it go on the back burner as well. Ava has an older sister who has anxiety/ocd and we put a LOT of time into her as well which takes up the energy so often that Ava will ask, “what about me?” it’s easy to overlook the quiet one, the one that doesn’t ask for “alone time” or dates with mom/dad….don’t feel bad about it!
that’s LIFE!
you guys are GREAT parents!
go ZOE!!!!!

July 7, 2012 - 7:17 pm

krista - wressey didn’t learn to ride a bike until he was almost 10. we have our share of overwhelm here too. lookin good zoe! (and i hope you have a helmet)

July 9, 2012 - 4:54 pm

Rob - [Rob]: Zoë has a sweet helmet – it’s a Matte Black hybrid skateboarding/biking helmet with a rad Paul Frank design on it (that gives it just a touch of feminine but not ‘too girly’). She’s also rockin’ the bike (didn’t take long for her to fall in love and become obsessed…)

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