The Beauty of Tarywile: With almost two weeks on her home turf, our daughter has been to appointments, visited her future apartment and apartment-mate to be, attended family functions and a local adult special needs art class but until last evening, she had not done a stitch of exercise. “I’m too tired.” Somehow, with the intoxication of a summer’s eve, and a day riveted once again to a small screen, she agreed to walk a trail with mom. What a glorious time we had. Rather than grumpy, and bumpy, she was fireworks and hilarity. We trod the park pathways of a former estate, with high grasses, and mowed fields, red wing black birds, local dogs and energetic owners. She bubbled over with observations about the topless young male joggers (she doesn’t like them without shirts) whom we made room for as they raced past us and cackled about former dorm mates who taught her dirty language…which I believe she already knew but clearly has added zest to the delivery.
A Healthful Future: Bouncing along to the beat of our raucous conversation punctuated by occasional leaps to avoid tripping over tree roots and rocks, I felt a wave of relief. We can do this, share these moments for years to come. My little buddy, grown up but still there, and her old mom. And she can get some exercise too.
A Worrisome Health Issue: Special Needs kids can be hard to manage health wise vis a vis weight and food choices. Concepts of food groups and fats are understood to a degree but narrow dietary restrictions for a young lady with a robust appetite and cognitive challenges can be perceived as cruel.
The Freshman 10: Dorm food has added ten pounds to the small frame of this young woman just this school year and though we talk portion control and healthy choices, it is very hard to compute in practical terms. Nag or restrict or reason with, nothing really works. Our daughter’s desire to control her weight and eat healthy is well intentioned but frankly, her cognitive challenges make this already difficult task for the average bear daunting. Measuring, either by eyeballing or with instruments doesn’t come easily. And she is a carb queen, following in her dad’s footsteps. The love of salads and veges and fish that come from her maternal side are lost to her. So how to protect while not attacking. Very difficult. She eats at meals, does not gorge and in fact, exhibits no indication of an eating disorder. She likes herself, dresses well and looks good but the trend has begun and years of more of this, or even one, will be problematic. The doctor’s check up two weeks ago recommends a ten-pound weight loss. Fortunately, all her blood work came back normal.
Processing Calories and Package Contents: She reads the ingredients in all products she buys but is forever drawn to television advertising and a healthy snack is a bagel with strawberry cream cheese. So the only answer, short of a Gestapo approach, is exercise.
The Taboo, Don’t Mess With Her Self-Esteem: All women know that the last thing you want to impose on your child is self-consciousness about their body/weight/image. So what’s a mother to do? Exercise and lots of it. Swimming, treadmill, some yoga, and walking to Main Street will all be built into future programming. Both moms are on board with this as is the agency. We just have to make sure that staff is as eager to exercise the girls as the parents are and the schedule indicates. Only a town away rather than two states, this should be easy enough to monitor.
Hilarious As Always: Our daughter thinks in terms of food. When her ex-boyfriend posted on Facebook that he was having breakfast with his new GF, her response was “what did you have for breakfast?” Not jealousy or envy, just give me the goods. And what a breakfast it was, replete with eggs, pancakes and bacon. She comes to this naturally. A phone conversation or small talk pleasantry with her dad or my late in-laws always included two basic ingredients, “what’s your weather” and a recitation of what was eaten for each meal, whether home-cooked or restaurant fare. Haddock stew or a BLT, no matter. This apple of a young lady clearly fell darn close to the father tree. Now we just have to make sure that no wicked worm of unhealthy weight gain crawls in to stay.
Another Day, Another Challenge: I think they call that LIFE!
Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011