Yes, you read that right. Don’t fix what’s broken. I decided to look back at what I was writing about one year ago in March of 2010, and at that time I had just read a hilarious article by Paul Baswick in which he makes the case for why he, as a husband and father, wisely chooses to NOT fix what’s broken in his house. A truly insightful man! I used that as the inspiration for my special needs parents’ Top 10 Things to Not Fix - and I'm sharing them with you again as we head into spring 2011:
1. The paint colour – or any other ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ home renos. Priorities people! Unless it’s affecting your mood or making your life difficult, leave your house alone and unsubscribe from HGTV and TLC. Besides, chances are your kids HATE changes and love consistency – right down to the colour of your paint!
2. The lightbulbs – florescents may be ecofriendly but they are not SPD friendly.
3. Your kid’s picky eating habits. This is one to embrace if your child has sensory issues or is on the spectrum. Of course this doesn’t apply in extreme cases where your child is at risk of malnutrition, but if your pediatrician is happy with your child’s growth and diet, then let this one go. I have spent countless hours fretting about and trying to fix what Simon is or is not eating, but his pediatrician always reassures me with a few simple rules for good nutrition: is he routinely getting a green or yellow/orange vegetable, a protein, calcium, and a healthy fat? That can translate into is a diet as simple as sugar snap peas or sweet potato fries, a burger or chicken nuggets (lots of healthy brands nowadays), chocolate milk/rice milk, and some olive or flaxseed or fish oil hidden in his meals or taken with his vitamins. And yes, even if he eats that every day, you are OK. If you can answer yes to those, and your pediatrician is happy with your child’s diet and growth, then don’t fix it because it isn’t really broken. Sure variety is the spice of life but it’s not worth wasting your life to attain.
4. The McDonald’s deep fryer. As far as Simon knew, it was pretty much perpetually “broken”. This is because with the exception of peanut butter, the only protein Simon would eat until last year was McDonald’s burgers and chicken nuggets. So once a week I let him have a burger AND nuggets, but no fries. “Why mama?”, “Because the French fry machine is broken honey”. It worked beautifully until the day the kid at the counter responded cheerily with “No it’s not”. “YES, it is” I replied, but despite me winking at him like a cougar (am I old enough to qualify as a cougar?) he did not catch on to my scheme and responded insistently “No, really, it’s working fine… see?” And he proceeded to walk over to the vat of fries and show Simon that Mama was indeed lying through her teeth. I do not regret this lie as I figure I saved his arteries a zillion grams of trans fat. So if your child is still gullible enough to fall for this one, keep the fry machine on the fritz.
5. Your child’s shoes. Laces are soooo 1950. Come on! This North American obsession with the tying of shoes being a ‘developmental milestone’ is completely outdated and ludicrous. Spare yourself the stress and buy Velcro. Once they are too old for Velcro, use bungee laces. Fine motor skills can be developed in ways that don’t make you late for every appointment and arriving in tears.
6. Your child’s handwriting. Let’s face it: as much as I would love to live in a Jane Austen world of letters and journals written with lacey feathers at high tea, our kids are more likely to be flying around with personal jet packs than they are to be judged ‘in the real world’ by their handwriting. Working on fine motor skills is good, shedding tears or losing marks because of handwriting is NOT.
7. Your child’s quirks – don’t correct them, CELEBRATE THEM!!! Truly they are a gift to the Universe of diversity and tolerance.
8. Your housekeeping – North Americans have an obsession with ‘clean’ while we busily pollute the environment with unnecesary chemicals. Keep the house tidy-ish and sanitary, and use all that extra time to enjoy a more meaningful activity than swiffering with your family!
9. Your relatives’ opinions. Give them the information they need to be patient and understanding with your child, but don’t stress out if some of them just don’t ‘get’ it. You can’t force them to understand and you don't need to own their ignorance, so learn to let go of your need for their approval.
10. Your Self. Remember that you are no more a broken person than your child is. They love you and are doing their best, and you love them and are doing your best. This is the human condition, and we are here to learn from the journey. Most parents tend to be self-critical and guilty about their child rearing skills, but I think that is ten-fold for those of us with high-needs kids. Don’t judge yourself or be impatient with yourself. Hold your head up high, take a deep breath, and love yourself first.