Here’s a holiday-season guest blog from Patty Chang Anker, a mother of two adopted daughters from China with multiple special needs, a yoga teacher for kids with special needs, a public relations pro and a blogger. A former director of media relations for The New York Times, Patty blogs at FACING FORTY UPSIDE DOWN (www.upside-down-patty.blogspot.com). She takes readers boogie boarding, diving, ice skating, fishing, river rafting, and eye-to-eye with a crocodile in the wild, all while chronicling the ups and downs of daily life with humor and heart. Her daughters, G (age 9) and R (age 4) inspire her every day to face her fears the way they do.
Dear G and R,
There’s a dusting of snow on the ground, Sugar Pond is frozen, and I’m thinking about the Friday evening last winter when you begged me to take you there to play.
It was the end of a long week in a long season of worry. I was tired. The energy required to get you into snowsuits, boots, mittens, hats (with a high likelihood of little R then saying “My FACE is cold”) made the thought of popping in a DVD and baking cookies hugely appealing.
But there you were, eyes shining, in a rare moment of both wanting the same thing at the same time. Other families were going. “PLEEEASE Mom, can we go?”
How buoyant you both were, despite all the difficulties you contend with every day. My concern for you consumed me. But it shouldn’t consume you. I can’t make everything better, I thought. But I can make this wish come true.
“OK,” I said. “I’ll get the flashlight.” Jubilation! Dancing! Mom is the best!
Of course, I worried the whole way there.
The last time we went sledding I fell knee deep through the ice into a swamp. I had sworn I was going to keep you away from this pond. I gave myself a pep talk to change the voice in my head: The village inspected the ice…the green flags are out for skating…other parents do this…I can do this.
So off we went, through the woods, me pulling you on the sled. The two of you were delirious with delight, swishing through the snow. Meeting up with our friends at twilight, Jakey skating for the first time, taking turns shining the flashlight to try to see through the ice. Everyone marveling, “WE’RE WALKING ON THE POND! CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?”
At one point you wanted to pull me in the sled. I was highly doubtful. But you got me in there, you tugged me along the ice. And I remember feeling so surprised, so carefree. I had conserved my energies that winter, doing just what needed to be done. I think I was waiting for someone to come along and lift us out of our struggles. It was you who lifted my spirits, after all.
On the way back, it’s almost dark. You sing “Dashing through the snow, in a one-MOM open sleigh…” I feel like a hero, taking you on this ride, hearing your happiness behind me and breathing it in with the cold night air. Laughing all the way.
Thank you for this memory, G and R. Such moments are fleeting and precious. You have both grown so much, you’re now 9 and 4, you may have to carry your own sleds this year. But we’ll go. I can’t wait for you to pull me on the ice.