It’s easy to get caught up in the fear, in the constant news watching, or in the escapism that others are ‘hiding’ in at the moment. A world pandemic that seems to be out of control is scary, even for people of faith.
However, the Lord has been teaching me a strategy for many years now, ever since Pigeon came into my life. It was obvious that he was a very different baby from the start in copious ways! He did things his own way, whilst friends’ babies dutifully went down for naps he wanted to be awake and feeding or looking around him. He learnt skills at different times and in different ways to how the growth charts and baby books said he should. When he was nearly five, I took the stabilisers off his bike and within two minutes he was riding like a pro; yet as a teenager he has only just made his first friend (of his own choosing, without any ‘help’ from me). Autism comes with a spiky profile of development, no smooth developmental charts here! Parrot has furthered my skills, as he was effectively a three year old baby when I adopted him. His development has been incomparable to his peers, even more so than his big brother.
The strategy that I have been learning is to celebrate, or to have joy, in the little things. When your children don’t make the expected progress alongside their peers, it can feel like you and they are not achieving anything as you repeatedly teach them the same things over and over again. There usually is progress, it just needs redefining. Actually, I should say our perspective needs redefining and refocusing.
To use an example from the first UK lockdown, it was a scary time and being at home made a lot of people wonder if anything was happening other than doom and gloom. Fortunately, it was springtime and we were allowed outside for periods of socially distanced exercise. We chose to walk and run in the quieter country lanes near our house, which meant repetition of routes. However, over the months, this allowed us to document the progress of the seasons in photographs and memories. Not always in the big changes, but in the little, almost imperceptible things such as the gradual unfurling of a fern that had been tightly curled the previous day. Flowers coming into bud and blooming; tiny, brown wrens that once flitted shyly through hedges, now standing on the end of a branch proudly singing to attract a mate; and the hooting of the tawny owls at night in the trees in front of our house. There are hundreds of little things that we took the time to really see/hear, and to think of them now brings a smile to my face as I write this.
We are now in our third lockdown and the number of cases and deaths are even higher. As a parent to a child with vulnerable health conditions, the constant data updates have wobbled me a few times; but I am choosing to refocus myself. Spring is still waiting to enter, but there are still things to notice. Pigeon’s latest interest is in photographing items up very close, in order to get a different perspective. Yesterday he found a large, thick piece of ice on a trug at the allotment (and then smashed it into as many pieces as it would go!). Before smashing the ice, he took some brilliant photographs of the air bubbles trapped within the ice. He photographed the end of an apple tree branch that I had pruned, the lichen on a wooden post and through the rungs of a metal ladder. There is such beauty in front of us, if we look for it.
Try it for yourself, change your focus and notice the little things around you – it’s fascinating and a great alternative to over-watching the news.