It’s the final countdown!
I’m at the end of my maternity leave, only a few sleeps left until I’m back at work! I will miss a lot about being on leave, I’ve met some fantastic people, made new friends, been to some absolutely wonderful groups (feature image is from one of the groups) and had some really good quality time with my right hand man. However, I am looking forward to going back, I love the balance of work and parenting. It helps that I’m part time and that I really enjoy my job!
I’m prone to reflecting, so I thought how better to mark the end of my time off than to compile a list of things that I’ve learnt and experienced over my maternity leave when it comes to my right hand man. These are just my experiences, other people may have had the complete opposite, but hopefully you will find it helpful or at least interesting!!
1) Just because he hasn’t got a hand doesn’t mean he is always differently abled.
I love the term ‘differently abled’ it’s so positive and really helps you focus on what’s there rather than what’s ‘missing’, for want of a better word. However he isn’t always differently abled, more often than not he is completing tasks in the exact same way my daughter did. Take crawling, for example (as it’s been a recent milestone of his), there has been absolutely nothing different about it. Exactly the same. People have been quick to give me their suggestions of how he could accomplish certain tasks, and what ever they say their idea always looks different to how a child with two hands would achieve it. The reality, however, is that there have been so many tasks that he has just cracked on with just like every other child. I’m sure as he gets older this may shift, but right now our experience is how I’ve just described.
2) It’s not always about his hand.
I did an entire blog post on this, but it’s here because I feel like this has been the most important lesson to learn over the past few months as it has really helped me to focus on him as a person. So it’s definitely worth bringing it up again. My right hand man is so much more than the boy without a left hand. He is a smiler, he is a noise maker, he is into anything he can bang, he is cheeky, he loves making friends…I could go on. A vast majority of people don’t actually notice his hand, when they approach us to speak to us about him it’s because they’re interested in this cute baby in front of them (or because he’s accidentally stolen their toys!), and if they have noticed it they really aren’t that bothered. Again, as he gets older people asking about his hand may increase, but even so, not everyone who approaches us is going to be wanting to speak to us about it, it’s more than likely to be about something else entirely. So don’t think you’ve got to be on guard for comments and questions all the time, it’s far more important to stop being on guard entirely and celebrate your child for everything they are.
3) Don’t fret and let him be.
When my daughter was born I became a much larger worrier than I had ever been before, first time parenting did not suit me. Sometimes I didn’t recognise myself with the worries that would run through my mind. One day I took off my parent hat and put on my youth worker one, and saw her in a different light. I learnt to back off and let her be, to let her explore and discover how things worked. When we found out about my right hand man’s hand I knew I had to make sure I did this early on, and I’m so glad I did. Through not fretting it has made watching him figure out his own way so much fun. I always knew that every task could be completed even if I couldn’t picture the ‘how’. It’s been great. So please, please, please, try and let go of the worries and watch the wonder unfold.
4) It’s never a shame that he doesn’t have two hands.
Agggges ago I wrote a post about the one and only time I thought ‘what a shame’ about him not having his left hand. I was proved that was a mistake!! I’ve never thought it again, but that doesn’t mean to say he accomplishes everything easily. Some things are hard for him. He is pulling himself up and cruising around at the moment, he’s learning about balance and grip. He can’t grip on his left side, which means we’ve had a few falls, however, by the next time he goes to attempt the same task he tries a new way on that side and figures it out. It’s amazing watch. I could so easily think ‘what a shame’ as some tasks are harder for him than it was for my daughter, but I don’t because ultimately what does it matter if it takes him a few attempts to figure something out? He will always get there eventually. He’s got so much determination, a crazy amount of it, and he will not stop until he has achieved what ever it is he has his eyes on. As the Lucky Fin Project says ‘ten fingers are overrated’.
5) I found a community.
Something that brings me joy everyday is going onto Facebook or Instagram etc and seeing people from all over the world who have an upper limb difference. Through our UK charity REACH and the American one The Lucky Fin Project, I have been able to get to know about and meet some fantastic people. No limits kind of people. I’ve been able to celebrate ability in all it’s variety, and embraced Finding Nemo like I’ve never embraced a film before! It’s been such a positive in my life and I hope you’re able to find that too.
6) Kids say the funniest things.
Children are the biggest culprits when it comes to making comments, they don’t have a filter and they question anything that they see as different. I’ve had some funny questions off children over the past few months and I’m sure we have many more to come. It’s great. Generally once you’ve answered their question they will talk about themselves and then move on. It’s the parents that are the interesting ones, and as someone who hasn’t handled their own daughters comments well before, I can totally relate. What I have found important is to put the parents at ease quickly, letting them know it’s okay for their child to ask questions and to have a quick chat about it. Just like their children they are quite likely, after the chat, to talk about themselves (or the Paralympics) and then move on.
7) Enjoy my amazing child.
Finally enjoy your child, your perfectly made, born just right, child. They will amaze you, they will annoy you, they will give you sleepless nights, they will cry over the most bizarre things, they will make you laugh, they will pull your hair, whack you and drool over you a lot! Enjoy every last saliva filled moment of it. It’s been a great maternity leave for me because I’ve made myself enjoy it. There have been some really hard moments…really hard, but it’s been important for me to learn how to brush those hard times away and enjoy what’s there.
I do hope this has been helpful in someway.
So hi ho hi ho it’s off to work I go, I’m not sure whether that’s going to mean less blog posts or more, either way you will still be getting updates from me and my right hand man as we entire a new adventure in our lives.