“It’s learning time!……………..It’s music time!………………It’s game time!……………………..”
Anyone with children, or daily exposure to young ones- has probably heard those phrases coming from a few different toys. Fisher Price has done this very lovely thing and used the same sing-songy female voice to say “It’s learning time! It’s music time!” when you press certain buttons on their toys. Most distinct examples are the Laugh and Learn Puppy and the schoolhouse frame you see in these pictures.
Evan loves this toy. No, he LURVES it. With every ounce of his bouncing, joyful being.
Here’s the catch. I do NOT love it.
In fact, I get a knot in my stomach when I see it in the store or at someone’s house. (please do not feel badly if Evan has played with it at your house, believe me, this is my hang up, not his)
I used to love it.
Evan started a cause and effect game with us using this toy. He would open and close the mailbox until he would get the right combination to produce the alphabet song. Then he would glance at us (mommy and daddy) to wait for us to sing the song along with it. We were so tickled that he figured that out and he was connecting with us through this game. This was when he was about 17 months.
Notice the abundance of musical, electronic toys. This was before we visited Dr. Mervis and were advised to get rid of all the toys that had on-off switches and incorporate more “old-fashioned” toys. This suggestion was made to encourage Evan to do more engaging play that required him to use his imagination and also communicate with us when he needed help.
Herein lies the title of this entry. When Evan encounters this toy, or any toy that is similar in fashion- one that has a switch that turns on music, action, or lights, he becomes entranced and very involved in the toy. It is difficult to get his attention and even more difficult to elicit any communication.
My heart literally ached on Christmas afternoon when my dad’s wife (he calls her Mom-Mom) came in the room to greet Evan and he didn’t even look at her. Not a glance. He was busy roaming around the schoolhouse frame and turning on and off those switches he remembered so well. She hugged and kissed him anyway and went back to cooking. Honestly, she did not seem to be bothered by it at all. She was happy to see him and thrilled that he was happy. And there I sat, knot in my stomach, blinded by the diagnosis. Blinded by the lack of engagement that we have been working so darn hard to increase. I didn’t see my happy son who was being pleasant, even-tempered, and occupying himself with a toy he loved. I was seeing the disability, the developmental delays. The very thing I preach about looking past.
There are moments, days, weeks, that can go by where I am thrilled by Evan’s progress, excited to discuss Williams Syndrome with friends, touched by the smiles that Evan elicits from strangers. Then there are days like this. When I wake up, filled with hope and expectations of a wonderful day spent with family. And by the end of the day, Evan is in the backseat of the car, scripting away, “It’s learning time!” It’s music time!” and I have to fight back tears. The word defeated feels accurate and awful at the same time.
(As I type this I can hear him singing along with his beloved Signing Time DVD, which also repeats, “music time, signing time, story time,” etc over and over. He does love Rachel. I’ve often said he would run off into the sunset with her or with the ladies from Baby Babble.. but that is another story.)
Lately I have been having a more difficult time embracing the joys, embracing the progress that I blogged about so recently. I know it is due to the holidays. Due to the stress I was under at work this past month. Due to the hustle and bustle of non-stop gatherings, entertaining, and changes in schedule that occur for everyone this time of year. I struggled with whether or not to write about it.
Because I do strive to see the positive slant on things.
I do realize how incredibly blessed we are.
But it would be a disservice as a writer (and a deeply sensitive one at that) to ignore the ugly truths that creep into our lives. To not acknowledge that being a parent of a child with special needs is hard. Capital H. Hiz to the ARD.
Being a parent is Hard.
Being a human being is Hard.
But being honest about it is freeing. Knowing that the Hard is worth it. Knowing that there are plenty of others out there who are also dealing with the Hard. And we don’t have to pretend that it is easy.
We just have to admit that this happens too:
Thank goodness there is also Joy. With a capital J.