Sunday, April 20, 2008

Surprises Abound

Today was a typical Sunday with our family. My husband, (also named Walker, so for clarity I'll sometimes refer to our son as Walker III) and I got up early because we had a yard man coming. We each muddled around and got something for breakfast, and I settled in with the newspaper while he dealt with the Spring clean up chores. Walker III came down some time later, and when I noticed that he had on his church clothes, I knew that once again, we'd failed to communicate.

This time it was my fault that I hadn't told him that our plans didn't include church today. He took the news cheerfully enough, and when I offered to take him to Sunday School, he declined, saying that it was okay, since he hadn't actually gotten a shower the night before. In this instance, as in many instances, you have to know the language of Walker. "Okay" really meant he didn't want to go, and that I was off the hook.

After fixing his breakfast, currently his preferred meal is sausage and biscuits, which he cooks in the microwave, Walker disappeared back upstairs. I went to the grocery, the one where he works, and did a mammoth shopping, since I hadn't been in a while. His co-workers who knew I was his mom, greeted me cheerily. Walker had given me a list of the indispensibles for the week which included diet cokes, both with and without caffiene, and in six packs of bottles and twelve packs of cans.

Now, I don't really understand exactly all the details of Walker's beverage choices, but they are always sugar free/diet. He made this decision about eight years ago after needing some extensive dental work, which he referred to as the "Nightmare on Dental Street". The dentist convinced him that the diet drinks were preferable to the sugary ones he loved. She and I both knew that the chances of convincing him to switch to water were slim and none as he spends seven hours a day in a grocery store and generally buys whatever he wants. Eventually, his boss banned all drinks but water from the checkout lines, and that cut back on the number of sodas Walker consumes a day, but has definitely not eliminated them. The switch to caffiene free occurs at dark in Winter, seven in the evening in the other months, my rule, but self-enforced by Walker to prevent sleep problems.

When I got home, Walker immediately came down to help me unload and put away the groceries, pleased with many of my choices, curious about other unfamiliar ones. He made his lunch, and disappeared back upstairs. We'll see him again at dinner unless I call on him for some kind of help, then he'll disappear till morning.

All of the above is simply evidence of Walker's ever increasing self-modulation and independence. This progress has probably been the most surprising thing to me about him. I had been told when he was young that he would probably function in the ten to twelve year old range, and in my mind, he would simply be stuck there forever. Surprise, Surprise, Surprise as my fellow Alabamian Gomer Pyle used to say.

I am a social worker by profession and completed an internship in developmental disabilities as part of my training. My supervisor was the director of a clinic which screened at-risk children. An understanding normal growth and development was essential to this screening process. I know that there are those who contend that test scores are just numbers, and that developmental charts don't apply to every child, and that there's no such thing as "normal". My life with Walker has taught me to value these tools to determine his needs and my expectations. My hands on experience in the clinic with a variety of children bolstered my observations of my own children, including Walker. I came to realize that his development followed a very predictable pattern, similar to his siblings, but on a different time table. As I have explained to my daughters through the years, retarded comes from the same root as tardy, and Walker just runs late--sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

As Walker, his dad, and I have all aged, we have constantly readjusted our life patterns to accomodate our individual and family developmental stages. It's an interesting journey.

Blessings to all, Janie

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