In every walk of life, there’s a certain amount of heart and perseverance needed to keep on going when you find yourself stumbling time and time again, but the elevating feeling of achieving what you once considered an unfathomable task is second to none.
From a young age, struggle is important. It helps us grow and learn to do things for ourselves because, if we don’t, there’ll come a day where a person won’t be there to do something for you. That level of helplessness is one that should be avoided at all costs. When you bring a child into the equation, it’s far too easy to help the kid with their task, which in turn can make it too easy for them to give in and rely on someone else.
In my opinion, this is a significant factor with limb-different children. With an obvious physical impairment, offering help comes naturally. Very recently I’ve received a flurry of messages from parents with a young child, asking if they should watch their limb-different son or daughter struggle or even feel bad for taking a backseat while letting them try to figure out a task. You should never feel bad for doing it, but it’s a game of give-and-take.
From my own personal experience, my parents allowed the struggle in moderation. Some tasks they’d support me with; others they’d allow me to adapt my own style and work through it by myself. Some tasks will be adapted to quickly, others rather slowly. It’s important to give them time. Even some tasks may prove difficult for the parents to teach.
For instance, I was able to feed myself with either hand – coming in handy (pardon the pun) when breaking my left arm in 2005 - open bottles and fasten buttons from a young age, whereas admittedly, I only learned to tie my shoelaces three years ago when I was twenty-years-old. My parents had tried forever to teach me, however the lack of thumb proved a barrier for us all.
Failing to overcome that barrier for so long left us stumped and left me tying shoes once and forcing my way in and out of them or wearing snazzy Velcro shoes. I’d always tried to tie my shoelaces, but never managed on my own. I had friends, teachers and training partners willing to tie my laces for me, however as good as that support was, it could feel a very convenient commodity to rest upon when I’d give in.
The feeling of finally cracking it such a short time ago was a brilliant ‘eureka’ moment and one I still must practice regularly to get better at. Luckily for me – and what seems to be the case with almost every limb-different kid I’ve met – I was a stubborn child. I’d mostly hate asking for help unless I was in a hurry or well and truly stumped. Whenever people would offer, I’d quickly dismiss their gesture to figure it out for myself. To be honest, I still detest asking for help now.
No matter how long it takes, you have to keep at it. Start out with ten attempts a day. Take it slowly and work your way through whatever challenge is in your way. For parents, it’s important to use these situations as life lessons. Allow them time to figure things out for themselves and set time aside to practice. It’s all about moderation. As much as it may pain you to see them struggle, their little minds are hard at work and you’re doing them a hefty favour that they’ll one day thank you for. The more you allow them to conquer, the better, stronger and more confident of a person they’ll grow to become.