Ah, January. A new month, a new year, some new resolutions, and lots of new things that can evoke feelings of guilt.
Like finding yourself in early February and not yet setting new goals for the year.
Does this sound familiar? But if you live in a special-needs home, creating such goals can get easily postponed because the daily to-do list is likely long and joined by need-to, vital-to and ever popular should-do lists. With all those lists, it can be hard to get enthusiastic about creating goals.
There were times when Rod (my hubby) and I were raising our four very active daughters — including Heidi, our beautiful, yet baffling child with Down syndrome and autism — that some things on our to-do list were mandatory. Yet, we also remembered fun, goofy, and happy things, too, because they were vital to balance our stressed-out family.
Today, our four girls are adults and have turned out fine (thank you, God). They’re kind, loving, hardworking, stable individuals leading great lives — despite the trials and occasional trauma experienced in their childhood (like having Heidi dart off during vacations). I recently had a daughter confide she had the perfect childhood. I was dumbfounded and elated that she found joy and peace amid my valiant efforts.
I saw a social media post from an autism organization with a drawing of a smiling mother with her arms spread high and one high-healed foot off the ground in a gesture of pure exhilaration, with this caption:
“All these other moms are talking about honor roll, dance recitals, softball games, gymnastic meets, and I’m sitting here like: Woo Hoo! She tried a new food and her socks didn’t bother her!”
I totally understood. Life in a special-needs home usually has two intertwining paths. One has basic goals for the typical family members, and another path with tasks and achievements to help the loved one with physical, mental, or emotional challenges develop moderately well. Frankly, it’s tricky to not get fatigued, sidetracked and discouraged.
So, we keep trying, right?
History indicates it takes consistent foundational techniques to reach any goal, and a University College London study stated the average number of days is 66 for a habit to become automatic.
Hands-on, plus lab research from the “University of Life with Heidi” at the Pearson Home Campus calculated that most habits technically took 166 days, depending on Heidi’s whims.
Just kidding. Good habits are truly vital to every success, including ours.
Considering the obstacles the disability community faces, my family is considered an extremely rare statistic. Rod’s and my marriage is intact, our neuro-typical children are stable adults, no one committed suicide or homicide, we lead productive lives, with no harmful coping addictions, and we’re actually friends.
Plus, Miss Heidi is stable, well, and happy. So I offer some expert advice of areas to maintain — among your mountains of minutiae: Make your goals specific. (i.e.) “We need to eat better” becomes “I am going to have at least one fresh, green salad at lunch, or a healthy breakfast smoothie.”
Bear in mind when we didn’t follow the guidelines below, my family’s lives were much harder.
1. Health: Take quality vitamins, minerals, amino acid, and healthy smoothies every single day.
2. Household: Consistently try to create order, simplify schedules, and diminish visual clutter.
3. Hygiene (Personal/Dental): Bathing, shaving, and teeth brushing are non-negotiable.
4. Healthy heart: Caring for the caregivers with investments in dates as a couple, professional massages, pedicures, and light-hearted family activities help avoid future therapists, doctors, drugs, and divorce lawyers.
5. Heed promptings: Parents, follow your mother’s intuition/father’s gut instincts, and especially Heavenly promptings.
Other than making goals specific, another key to succeed at achieving goals is being aware of the habit or habits we choose to allow in our lives, as the following poem explains:
I am your constant companion,
I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well turn over to me
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed –
you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done
and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great people;
and alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great,
I have made great.
Those who are failures,
I have made failures.
I am not a machine,
though I work with all the precision of a machine
plus the intelligence of a human.
You may run me for a profit or run me for ruin —
it makes no difference to me.
be firm with me,
And I will place the world at your feet.
Be easy with me,
and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am habit.
Parting thought: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. It’s never too late to improve. Keep calm and carry on!
Elayne Pearson, C.A.S., is a Special-Needs Preparedness Specialist, a Certified Autism Specialist, and Natural Health Consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org