Today I have been seeing families in Bucharest, Romania. This is my second of eight days of seeing children and families here. I arrived in Bucharest after seeing children in Barcelona and London. Between these three cities I will have seen families from many different countries. All of these families have children with developmental issues; all of these families are dedicated to their children; and all of these families are assuming responsibility for their children and their children’s futures. They are all exceptional and can serve as models for parents and families everywhere, not just families of children with issues, but all families.
In all of my years of travel, seeing children and working with and through families, there is one glaring truth. Wherever the families live, whatever their nationality, whatever their heritage, whatever form of government they live under, whether the family is defined as one parent or two, as only one child or a house full, grandparents or extended family in the home, whatever constitutes the family, they are all united in the care of and dedication to their children and the assumption of responsibility for their children. These families are not looking for their governments to do the job; they rather universally only ask that the government stay out of their way. These are dedicated parents who are absolutely amazingly alike.
In the seventies I was the clinical director of a large United Cerebral Palsy organization. I received grants from the state and federal governments and created model programs and was by most definitions quite successful producing significantly better results than other schools or agencies. But I came to a realization: that whatever I was able to provide for those children within our school and clinics, it was not enough. I also realized that the governments were never going to have the funds to give the children enough, and that expectations were not based on potential, but on the economic realities of what the system could afford to give, and that over time everyone bought into and accepted this distortion of reality and potential. Actually, not everyone–not the families I have been working with all these years. The families who say, “This is my child, this is my son, this is my daughter and I am responsible. I am going to help my child be all they can be. Help me or get out of my way.”
So on this International Day of Families, I am happy to offer up our NACD families from all over the world as models for what families can and should be. All of us at NACD are privileged to be able to know and assist these fantastic families.
Next Sunday a huge percentage of our population will be watching the Super Bowl. I won’t be one of them. I will actually be seeing kids in Cincinnati, or I would probably be one of the millions watching the game. I honestly try to watch the Super Bowl more as a piece of cultural literacy than out of a great passion for watching the sport. My passion for organized football ended in junior high school in my very first and last “organized” football game. My coach directed me to go in and “take out” a player on the other team. I proceeded to walk off the field, never to return.
This morning, Sunday January 25, on ABC News- This Week, I heard George Will make some meaningful statements about football, statements that mirrored my own thoughts. George Will said, ”The most important letters in football are not NFL, but CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the cumulative impact of brain damage of small unrecognized, unrecorded impacts in a game that is inherently dangerous.”
My boys wanted to play football, but I would not permit it. Spending your life trying to fix brains tends to give you tremendous respect for an intact healthy brain. If we are fortunate enough to have healthy children, we really need to do everything we can do as responsible parents to protect and nourish that brain. We parents are responsible. These decisions as to whether our children engage in inherently dangerous activities are not their decisions to make; they are ours. In like manner it’s not our children’s decisions as to whether they eat healthy food or do the things that are required to learn responsibility or to develop their brains or become educated. As adults they can make all the decisions they want; but responsible parents do not abdicate important life altering decisions to children who are ill equipped to be making such life altering choices. As parents you can decide whether or not football is safe and establish your own opinions on nutrition, education, and everything else concerning your children; but you need to be the one making the decisions, not your children. In the end you are responsible for the consequences; they just have to live with them.
I would like to wish you all a very happy New Year.
The new year offers us the opportunity to reset, to get our priorities in order, to rededicate ourselves, and to take a deep breath. Part of taking that deep breath should involve looking at our children and our lives without the baggage of last year. Start the year enjoying each day, enjoying your children and your lives. There is work to do–welcome it, don’t fear it. I look at every child that we impact through NACD as an opportunity to help build a life. You can work to help your children become all that they can be and enjoy them as well. I carry around thousands of snap shots in my mind, snapshots of your children. Most are smiling, some are inquisitive, some have a look of wonder. Others include snapshots of those precious moments where we can see in and begin to discover who they are.
My snapshots are all of moments I have shared with your children where I can see them, see who they are, and see their potential and their future as truly unique people.
Let’s hit 2013 running, working together, and smiling because we are together sharing the opportunity to help put more smiles on more faces and help our kids.
Please watch the video on the link below. A very dear friend and NACD mom, Gloria Lindsay, sent this message to me.