Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our own pace

One of the things that I have learned as I have gotten older is that everyone has to do things in their own time, at their own pace.

Let me tell you about my Noah. Noah was born in Ethiopia, and suffered brain damage at birth when he was born in a rural area without medical care available. When he came to the United States (with his first adoptive family) he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Cortical Vision Impairment, feeding disorder, and several other major diagnoses.

When he came home to us, his forever family, at nine months old, we were told that he likely was almost completely blind. That he may never progress physically - may never even be able to hold up his own head, or sit up, or swallow. That he may never interact with us, and that we likely would never get his seizures under control.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, with great medical care and endless amounts of patience, encouragement, hope, faith, support and love, Noah made progress. Seizures were stopped. He started following things with his eyes. He started smiling at us and vocalizing. After months and months of therapy, he rolled over. Then he sat up. One day he pulled up to stand. He FINALLY figured out how to crawl and started getting in to everything. He started to get (too) good at climbing. And perhaps the biggest miracle of all - a month or so ago, he started WALKING. Yes, the kid who we were told may never even hold up his own head now walks and walks and walks.

Noah is three and a half years old. I suppose I could compare him to other three year-olds and be sad and discouraged. He only says a few words and knows a few signs, when most kids his age engage in full conversations. He still wears diapers and is nowhere near ready for potty-training, when most kids his age no longer need Huggies. He has a slow, staggering walk, while most kids his age can run all over. He is still dependent on a feeding tube for all of his nutrition, where most kids his age eat full meals with a fork. He can't tell you his colors or ABC's. He doesn't sing songs or ride a tricycle or color with crayons. Yet.

But we don't focus on the things that Noah can't do, or the things he doesn't do yet. We don't compare him to other three year old boys. We aren't sad or discouraged. We see the miracle that he is, and find joy in every accomplishment and every milestone (the ones most parents take for granted). 

It may have taken him two years longer than "the average" child to learn, but he is walking! I tell the kids that Noah will be able to do much in life (and won't be defined by the things that he can't do) - it just takes him a little longer to learn how to do things. Like everyone else he has his own strengths, gifts, potential, and challenges, and he is doing it all at his own pace. This would be true even if he never learned to walk, even if he never crawled, even if he still could not hold up his head.

Maybe it is easy to accept differences and encourage individual strengths when you have a family full of kids from a variety of different countries, backgrounds, and genetic makeups. We have kids who are athletic. We have kids who are musical. We have kids who don't want to be still a minute of the day. We have kids who curl up with a book for hours at a time. We have kids who get straight A's with almost no effort at all, and kids who have to work very, very hard to get C's. We have kids who take to new things and new challenges right away and kids who take time to warm up. We had kids start to walk at nine months old, and a son who took off at three and a half years old.

And each one of them is amazing. Awesome. Wonderful. Inspiring. Perfect.

We don't compare, we don't allow them to be competitive with each other. We celebrate each one's accomplishments, successes, adventures, talents, and interests.  We want each one to reach their full potential, whatever that may be. We let them all go at their own pace.

Back in May I wrote this post about comparing ourselves to other runners. I was thinking again recently how important it is to not compare, and to understand and embrace that we all progress at our own pace, and we all run at our own pace.

Some runners are naturally fast. Some runners have natural endurance. Some runners have to work very hard to make progress. Some runners find it comes more easily. Some runners are challenged with injuries. Some runners are thin without trying. Some runners have to work hard to lose weight. Some are natural sprinters, some are marathoners, some are ultra runners. Some are at home on the track, some on the roads, some on the trails. Some thrive with the challenge of a race, others just run for a little peace each day. What is slow for one runner is fast for another. What constitutes a short run for one runner is a long run for someone else.

I don't think any one is better than the other. We all have our own strengths, our own challenges, our own potential.  My goal is to work, strive, push, and live in such a way that I can try to reach my full potential as a runner and as a person. The best we can do is the best we can do, and we all need to move forward - to run and to live - at our own pace, and to find joy and satisfaction in it.

“Part of the problem with the word 'disabilities' is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can't feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren't able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” - Fred Rogers

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”- William Faulkner

“there is no planet, sun, or star could hold you if you but knew what you are.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Amy Lauren said...

I love this post and the analogy of comparing the kids and comparing yourself to other runners. We never know what someone else is going through in their life, and the things we go through affect our running too. You just have to be the best you can be each day.

That's really awesome that Noah is able to walk a little now and that his seizures have stopped. It shows how much progress a kid can make if he has encouragement and acceptance.

Michelle said...

It's so funny how posts happen at "just" the right time. I have been having such a hard time finding "MY" happy spot in running and fitness. I need to cut myself a little slack.
Also, while I was working out at the Y yesterday and watching the Olympics, I thought about how cool it is going to be when I see YOU on that screen!

Mark Matthews said...

Great Stuff!

MCM Mama said...

What a wonderful post. Your love for your children just shines in every word. Wish I'd had the chance to meet you when I was out that way.

And, yes, runners need to remember the same things.

Cat said...

Yes. Love everything about this. :)

Jen@runfortheboys said...

This is beautiful and, of course, made me cry. You are such an amazing woman - wife, mother, and friend - and you inspire me everyday in ways you don't even know.

What blessings each of your children are to you and to each other...if we all could only learn the life lessons that your family embraces every day, what a wonderful world this could be.

Love you.

Adrienne said...

Erin, I just want to give your Noah a big hug for his HUGE accomplishment!

I also feel this post comes at such a great time for me. Your posts tend to do that! I have been frustrated that I cannot run yet post C-section and am walking. It takes me double the time to walk a mile that I used to be able to my runs at! But, when I am grimacing about this, I just remember that my little preemie came into the world SAFELY and that is all that matters.

Beth @ Miles and Trials said...

What an amazing miracle Noah is. And what a blessing you and Josh have been to him and all your children. To say your are an inspiration to me in both running and parenting would be an understatement.

Congratulations on your 5k. I was out of town the past few days and am just getting caught up now, way to show up the guys!!

{lifeasa}RunningMom said...

So I am obviously playing catch up on reading blogs as I post again to you!

Thanks again for an awesome post! I think you are saying all the things I need to hear right now. Just yesterday I was bogged down but running with dear hubby who is naturally faster than me and feeling so slow even though I know I have come so far. I need to stop harming myself with that silly comparison.

And Noah is a true gem! What a blessing he is for your family and your family is for him!

Annie Crow said...

Thank you for this!

Fit Mommy said...

That's an incredible story. Go Noah! You are so right that everyone need to do things at their own pace. We are individuals after all.
Mom Fitness Journal

Majda said...

Great post!

You know what? I have actually a lot of quotes written down in my notebook now with the author name "Erin The Runner". :)

Jill said...

I love this post. It is just what I need to hear right now too. I have been enjoying my summer, running regularly but not pushing myself too hard and have been a little down on myself for that. But I realize the reason I'm taking it easy is because it's what I WANT to do, and I need to stop comparing myself to others who keep getting faster. When I want to get faster I will push myself. If that's not my main focus right now, that's okay too. Thanks for the reminder. Good luck with your marathon training. You are going to do awesome in Pocatello.

Kristin Miller said...

GREAT POST! I work with special needs children, and this made my day. Also, it's HARD to smile while running! Breathing is very difficult when smiling, but I'm trying! ;-D

monicac2 said...

I just want to say that I think you're awesome. Amazing runner, amazing person, amazing mother.

Keep doign what you're doing! :)

Cindy @ Once Upon a Loaf said...

Erin, this is a beautiful, treasurable post. I know so many runners - and non-runners, alike - who need to read this post. I am going to link them to it. Thanks for writing it and for sharing yourself with us. Run happy and fast!!

Happy Running Mama said...

I *LOVE* this post! I recently found out my soon-to-be-born niece may have many health issues. Detailed ultrasounds have revealed there is something wrong with her brain. We won't know the full extent of damage until after she is born in a couple more months. But there is a good chance she will be born with no sight, significant brain damage and lacking her pituitary gland. We have all been forced to reevaluate our expectations of what it means to have a "perfect" little girl. Your post couldn't be more timely for helping me to know she will have her own strengths, gifts and potential. And she will be perfect in her own way.

I always love reading your posts -- you are such an inspiration!

- Kristen

Laura @ Mommy run fast said...

Beautiful post about comparisons. I love your multi-cultural family! What a perfect opportunity to teach your family about differences and the gifts they each bring.

Julia said...

i seriously feel like every single time i read one of your posts...i was meant to read it at that exact time i came across it. this spoke volumes to me. thank you so much for sharing. and thinking of your Noah brings a smile to my face:)

Kristen Lawrence said...

Reading this brought tears to my eyes! You are a wonderful mother and your children are so lucky to have your kindness as a role model. You amaze me!