It has not escaped my notice that the life I am living with my mother these days greatly resembles the work I do with students every day. Only in reverse.
Teaching is really a slow building up of expectations as students are capable of accomplishing at greater levels. An example of this is with my Daily 5 program. The students first learn the expectations for read to self. Then, I model it (A LOT!) at the carpet and, only when I am sure they all understood what I want, do they begin to practice reading. And, even then, we only begin with 3 minutes. When they can do that, I upp it to 5 minutes and so on and so forth until they can read independently for 20 minutes. If they forget the expectations, we go back to the beginning and relearn it all.
Basically, as their cognitive abilities grow, so do my expectations. It is like that with my mother. But in the opposite direction. My expectations have to lessen as her cognitive abilities diminish.
It is a very weird place to be. I have devoted my adult life to the practice of teaching and learning. I am used to looking for growth not diminishment. It is a really tricky thing to know when her abilities no longer let her do certain tasks independently. If I mistake her ability level it can lead to her being frustrated or angry. I don't want to baby her and do things for her that she can do for herself and, yet, at the same time, I don't want to expect something from her that she is no longer capable of doing.
Then I noticed it with bathing. If she says she's going to take a bath, she inevitably forgets that she intended to take a bath by the time she reaches the top of the stairs. But, even if she did recall that she intended to bathe, she doesn't seem to remember how to run a bath. So, it makes no sense for me to get upset at her for not bathing. I have to lower my expectations to meet her abilities. If that means running her the bath and making it a pampering experience (versus a "you can't do it for yourself" experience) then that is what I need to do.
So, what does all this have to do with feeling grateful (as the post title suggests). Well, I realized the other day that I can choose how I feel about my mother and the disease that is now taking her away from us.
I can be angry and sad that she is no longer the woman I once knew. I can be frustrated by the things that seem so simple to me but that she can't do independently. I can be grumpy and resentful about all the changes in my life since we took over her care before Christmas.
OR...(and this is a big OR)
I can suck it up and say I'm sorry for doing whatever transgression she thinks I've done (because what is more important? Being right or having my mother calm and happy?) I can choose to spend more time at her house than mine and be happy about it. I can be grateful for the opportunity to cook her a meal and share it with her. I can be grateful for the sound of her voice talking to me and the feeling of her arms in a hug. I can be grateful for being given the gift of another day with my mother. I can choose to be grateful for each day that passes where she still knows who I am.
So, on this Family Day holiday, I am choosing to be grateful for every single second that I get with the woman who brought me into this world. I know that there will come a day when she can't do much of anything for herself. There will come a day when she won't even know who I am. There will come a day when the woman I knew as Mum is no longer with us in a way that we can see or understand. I refuse to spend my time being angry over that (though I can't lie, there have been a couple of moments where I just felt so tired and sad about the whole disease and what it has done to my Mum and my family, but I refuse to let those moments define me) and, instead, am choosing gratitude.
What are you choosing?