Autism boy and his brother at the hotel pool
When he was younger, my autism boy was terrified of water. Bath time was an ordeal that involved physically restraining this petrified, screaming child while we sponged him down as best we could. When we had to wash his hair, we would have to take him by surprise and wrap him up like a burrito before he would realize what was going on. These gruelling sessions usually ended with me in tears as I contemplated what I was putting my child through.
A trip to a splash pad one summer’s day a few years ago led to the discovery that although my autism boy hated being submerged in any body of water, he would consent to standing under a spray of water. From that day, our lives were a lot easier: bath time became shower time. My son was not exactly thrilled, but the screaming and terrified looks were replaced with crying and more manageable anxiety.
Although keeping my child clean is less traumatic than it once was, it is still challenging. My son only just manages to tolerate being in the shower for any length of time. Every minute that he is in there, he begs to be allowed out.
And so it was with a great deal of trepidation that I decided to enrol him in swimming lessons this summer. Fear of water or no fear of water, this kid has to learn how to swim. Individuals with autism are twice as likely as the general population to die prematurely from accidental causes. An extremely high percentage of those deaths are drownings.
And so I called the local aquatic centre and told them I wanted to put both of my boys into swimming lessons. I explained about the autism and the fear of water, and expressed my concern that my son would not even get into the pool.
The lady at the aquatic centre said something that I have told myself many times, something that I believe should be a constant mantra for autism parents everywhere.
“We won’t know what he’s capable of unless we give him the opportunity to try.”
These words told me everything I needed to know about the staff at the aquatic centre: that they were prepared to work with my special needs son in a positive and inclusive manner.
On the day of the introductory lesson, I deposited the boys with their instructor and made my way to the observation room, where I leaned forward in my chair and waited anxiously. I knew, at least, that my autism boy would be greatly reassured by the presence of his brother. As I watched, the boys were directed to sit on edge of the pool and dangle their legs in the water.
My younger son readily complied. The autism boy watched him for a few moments, and then followed suit. I held my breath, waiting for a disaster.
But instead of screaming and panicking, my son gingerly lowered himself into the water, to where his instructor was waiting.
I’m sure there was an audible thunk as my jaw hit the floor.
With his hands resting lightly on the instructor’s shoulders, my boy walked from one side of the pool to the other, and then back again. He waited patiently as the instructor went through the same paces with my younger son, and then he did it all over again.
Half an hour later, I met my kids at the entrance to the pool. Both of them were full of smiles, and my younger son could barely contain his excitement as he described how well his brother had done.
Several weeks have passed since then: during this time, we have had a family vacation that included many hours at hotel pools, and there have been two more swimming lessons. Almost overnight, my autism boy has become a water baby. He’s not exactly Michael Phelps, but he can float with support and put his face into the water.
This experience has been a valuable reminder for me to never assume that my kids will not be capable of something.
Have your kids ever surprised you with an accomplishment that you weren’t expecting? Have they ever come to love something they once feared?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.
2014 Lake Macquarie International Children’s Games in December 2014.
How far would you go for your child to help him/her win a competition? Competitions are meant to establish sportsmanship, confidence and winning spirit, but in China, the idea of competition is taken to another level. With the 2016 Olympics in Rio underway, the idea of how much training is too much, when it involves a chance at qualifying for the Olympics, may give one pause for thought.
A video has been attracting attention that has stirred some controversy of how children are being trained for the Olympics in China. The video depicts children as young as 5 being subjected to harsh exercises which could be seen as being over the top. The children are screamed at, told to hang on pull-up bars for what seems like an interminable amount of time, only to be chastised if they resist or cry. My initial reaction to this video was one of horror. How was this allowed? Why was this considered “training” when to me it seemed like punishment?
The video is below.
My husband and I are familiar with training for a sport since my daughter was a competitive figure skater from ages 5 to 13. We were all new to the sport, but one thing we did know, we were supporting our daughter because she wanted to do this, not us. Her initiation with skating stemmed from seeing Michelle Kwan on a segment of the PBS cartoon show, “Arthur”. She was mesmerized by how beautifully she skated and told us that she wanted to be just like her. She even went so far as to buy a book about Michelle Kwan to read about her life and how she got started with figure skating.
While we wanted to support her wish, we also told her that it involved a lot of hard work. We weren’t trying to discourage her, but we also wanted to make sure that she knew what she needed to do to accomplish her goal. I can say that part of the attraction was being able to wear beautiful outfits for competition, but Shaina would realize how much work was involved in trying to be a competitive figure skater. It wasn’t just the sport that drew her in, it was the beauty of how one’s dream to succeed was a product of hard work and commitment.
Training for figure skating consisted of waking up at 5 AM twice a week to get to the rink at 6 AM and practice with her coach from 6-7:30 AM before school, as well as Saturdays & Sundays from 12:30 PM – 3 PM. Getting up at 5 AM was not always that easy, but my husband and I committed to making it a family affair. That meant waking up with her at 5 AM, being with our daughter during every practice, every competition, massaging every aching back and leg cramps that she experienced for eight years. At the age of 12, her Coach sat us down to discuss her future in this sport; either to go on the Olympic track or continue to compete regionally. While Shaina loved the sport, she knew that being on the Olympic track was not for her.
For the children depicted in this video, the training regimen can be viewed as harsh, if not tortuous by outsiders. Scenes depicted on the video show a child being pulled off the bar or bending one’s back so far over that it could be seen as torture. These children seem to be at a great disadvantage since they can’t fight back, and knowing the sacrifices their parents have made for them, they wouldn’t. The parents of these children place them with these trainers with the hope that their child would be the one of the lucky ones to qualify for the Olympics. It should be noted that this level of training seen on the video may not be the norm in China, but it should give one pause for thought.
The Olympics is a universal symbol of excellence and any child who dreams of achieving a medal resulting from hard work and commitment deserves that chance. Every parent, regardless of race and culture, wants the best for their child and I am not any different. I understand that given the chance, I would do everything I could to help my child achieve her dream, not mine. My hope is that this video will be a reminder that the road to the Olympics is not be about the medals, but the child’s dream of being the best they can be for himself/herself.
This article here has ignited some thought.
This is an original post to World Moms Network by World Mom, Tes Silverman in New York, USA.
Photo Credit: Moetaz Attalla via Wikimedia Commons
In case you hadn’t heard, Portugal won the European Football Cup last week (or soccer for those of you reading this across the Atlantic). It’s a big deal because Portugal’s national team has never (ever ever) won a major competition. I was in a park watching the match on the big screen with family and friends but even someone hidden away in their closet all night would have heard the shouting, honking, banging and clashing celebrations going on all over Portugal once the referee blew the final whistle.
I’ve never really been into football, partly because my parents used to groan every time their precious news programme was postponed due to extra time but also because I found it difficult to decide where my allegiance lay. It seemed like true fans were so fervent about their club or their country. I had no idea who to support: I was born in Germany to an English mother. It was abundantly clear to me that being English was no better than being German – it was just different, so why would I want the England team to win over the German one? For a long time I avoided the question of “Who’s side are you on?” by saying I just wasn’t into football.
Then I married a Brazilian. Brazilians are really into football. I mean REALLY. It was easy to support my husband’s club because it represented the Brazilian state I first moved to and, well, he is my husband. During the World Cup 2010 we resolved any possible conflict by rooting for Uruguay, a better fit for my southern-born husband who identifies much more with Argentinian and Uruguayan Gaúcho culture than the carneval and samba of Rio de Janeiro. Plus, I always love supporting the underdog. In this manner, two World Cups went by without a glitch (well…unless your Brazilian!). And then we moved to Portugal.
Now the main event was suddenly the European Cup and once again my allegiances felt split. Should I support Germany? I hadn’t lived there in a decade and didn’t identify much with the team’s powerhouse approach. England? As a foreign-born British national it always felt odd to support “England” rather than “Great Britain” but supporting Scotland or Wales would have been even odder. What about Portugal? Once again it didn’t feel quite right. We live in Portugal but none of our family is Portuguese, I don’t know any of the players except for Ronaldo. So, once again, I sat on the fence and simply ignored the football events around me.
And then Portugal won the quarter finals. Then the semi-finals. Something was in the air. Splashes of red and green, the colours of Portugal’s flag, began appearing all over town, in windows, on cars, on people’s clothing. I commented on a stranger’s lovely vibrant red top and she told me it was “in honour of Portugal”. The day of the finals I was walking along the beach with my son. Everything was red and green: vendors were selling Portuguese scarves, all the bars had a flag in the window and I even saw a whole family of four decked out in Portuguese team shirts.
Something inside me shifted. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s easy to ignore the fact that I’m living in Portugal. I’m surrounded by expats, my family and few Portuguese friends. Expat life ALWAYS comes with it’s fair share of annoyances and it’s so easy to imagine that “home” (wherever that may be) would be better, faster, cleaner, easier. But that day on the beach I realised how many good things Portugal had brought me and my family. It had become a home, a place full of laughter and friends, sunshine, walking in the hills, jumping in the surf, drinking wine under the setting sun.
It deserved my support.
I wish I could say I went to watch the final game that night decked out in red and green. I didn’t or rather couldn’t. But although my wardrobe is decidedly monochrome my heart was beating for Portugal. And when the crowds stood up to cheer, my little Brazilian-Anglo-German family was cheering right there with them.
Have you ever supported a national or local team while living abroad? What about your kids?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Julie Dutra in Portugal.
Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport, with most Canadians huddled around the television on Saturday nights to cheer on their favourite teams being featured on “Hockey Night in Canada”. Boys love hockey. Girls love hockey. And, they love it equally. But the treatment of both genders in the world of hockey is very different.
I live in a country where gender equality is of such importance.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was applauded for electing equal numbers of men and women to Cabinet during his 2015 election. When asked why this was important, he simply said “Because this is 2015”.
But gender equality in hockey does not always exist in Canada. Not even in 2016. And this is incredibly frustrating for the many girls and women who live and breathe the sport throughout the year. I have three daughters, and two play hockey. I have overheard men in our community, as I was rushing into an arena on a cold winter morning with one of my daughters, making comments about how it is a waste for girls’ hockey teams to be given ice time, as it was taking away from the boys. Our highest ranking women’s Canadian hockey teams never get the media coverage they deserve. Most Canadians don’t even know these female leagues exist, despite the incredible talent and sportsmanship these young women exhibit game after game.
This inequality is trickling through to younger generations as well. My one daughter plays on a co-ed hockey team. At only 10 years of age, she is already having to hear the boys on the bench tell each other NOT to pass to her because she is a girl.
One of our greatest Canadian hockey players, Hayley Wickenheiser, has spoken about the challenges girls face in sport. When people would say to her, “Girls don’t play hockey; girls don’t skate”, she would say – watch this!
Staying true to her word, Hayley has won multiple Olympic medals for hockey. Decades later, however, little girls who look up to Wickenheiser are still having to defend their place in Canadian hockey.
This is 2016, so when someone says you “play like a girl” it should be taken as a compliment. After all, this is Canada, a nation that prides itself on equality.
This is an original post by Alison Fraser who is Founder and Director of Mom2Mom Africa.
Photo credit to the author
The other day I went to my teenage son’s soccer tournament, and because his game was delayed, I watched a girls’ match finish on the other field. Actually, thanks to the British history in Abu Dhabi, I should say that I went to the “football fixture,” watched the girls play “on the other pitch,” and then at the end of the day took my son to the sports store so he could buy a new pair of “boots” (not cleats). Who knew when we moved here five years ago that one of the ways we would adapt is learning to speak a different version of our native tongue?
As I watched the girls’ match, two girls maneuvered the ball across the pitch, their teammates shrieking encouragement. One girl—a headscarf covering her hair, and leggings under her athletic shorts—passed the ball to her teammate, whose long ponytail was streaked light blue. They brought the ball down the pitch—passed left, passed right—and then Ponytail shot for the goal. The ball bounced off a goal post, looked like it was going to go wide, and then sank into the back of the net past the goalie’s outstretched hands.
“Nice shot,” murmured my son. “Really good pass, too.” Neither of us knew the girls who were playing, but his comment made me happy nevertheless. As the mother of sons, I collect “girl power” moments like this one to remind my sons that they do not have the market cornered on sports excellence. Now that he’d seen for himself, I wouldn’t have to risk being Tiresome Mom by pointing out that those were girls playing pretty kick-ass football.
It’s easy to see in this little episode a lesson about hijab not being the symbol of oppression that so many non-Muslims are quick to assume it is. This girl left her opponents in the dust as she raced down the field, and she pounded her thighs in elation when the ball went into the net. Her war whoop as she ran to the sidelines to celebrate with her teammates would be recognized anywhere as the screech of a happy athlete.
But that’s not really the point. The point has to do with the fact that my fifteen-year-old son didn’t notice the headscarf or the leggings—or the blue ponytail, for that matter—he noticed the football. He noticed what the girls were doing, not what they looked like. As my son moves closer to manhood, a process that seems to be unfolding faster and faster despite my attempts to keep him “my boy” as long as I can, I wonder if my feminist politics have rubbed off: will he become a man who sees what women can do rather than how they look or what they’re wearing?
Isn’t that the question we ask ourselves as our children—those firm little packages of flesh that seemed at one point soldered to our hips—move out into the world: we want to know if our lessons have sunk in, if they’ve been listening even as they seem glued to the Snapchat world in their phones. Does my darling son talk about girls as “hotties” when he’s with his buddies; does he chime in when the conversation turns to which girl has the best body and why?
I don’t know. All I can know is that the other day, what he saw was two people playing great football.
Who knows. Maybe if enough children grow up appreciating what people can do, rather than what they look like or what they do (or don’t) wear on their heads, the world might become a more level playing
How do you create awareness about gender equality for your children?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.
Every four years, a large part of the world’s attention descends on one nation – for World Cup Football. Tomorrow, the FIFA World Cup actually starts, and as you all know, the first match is in Sao Paulo, where Brazil takes on Croatia. I was on the phone with fellow World Moms Blog editor, Jennifer Burden, and she asked me if India is excited for the World Cup.
My own family has World Cup fever, inspired by my recent trip to Brazil to report on world poverty and environmental issues, but when I think of the whole of India excited about something sport-related, it is really only cricket that comes to mind!
People in India will watch the World Cup games, but it won’t compare to our country’s level of excitement over cricket.
When it comes to sports, India is a cricket-crazy nation.
Men, women and kids all watch and/or play and/or have favorites and/or conduct mass prayers and/or do just crazy things for the sake of cricket. There is really no end to it!
Sachin Tendulkar, a cricket player, is like a God to everyone in India. And there is absolutely no limits to what people would do for cricket. It is not just a game. Cricket has a very special life and a very special relationship with this country. It cannot even be explained, however, living in India during the cricket season would say it all.
Let me entertain you with a few crazy things that go on in India around cricket…
People color themselves with the tricolor Indian flag. The tricolor theme is not just clothes and caps, but you can find it also in the school premises, in apartments (flats) — theentire nation in is the colors of the Indian flag for the cricket. The celebrations are as intense, if not more, (ok, I have to be honest- it is the most celebrated event) than even Diwali or the Independence Day.
Check out this picture of a school in Western India where the school children are rooting for the Indian cricket team.
And then people just form throngs everywhere during the actual time the game is telecast. Office-goers, housewives, school-children, get together wherever there is a TV and watch. Homeless people watch cricket on the TV sitting on the streets across an electronics shop (or TV shop). No, they aren’t driven away. Because it is cricket season.
Shopkeepers let the customers watch the match from the shop indefinitely
There are common TV viewing holes in villages like the local tea-stalls, community centers, even movie theaters at times, a common TV in the square of the slum. Oh, there is no end to this kind of thing. These pictures to do the job of explaining the craziness cricket causes for the people of India and the rest of sub-continent countries (Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh).
A tea stall hosting the TV viewing of the cricket match to a gathered crowd of the villagers
The slum dwellers watching the cricket match from a local TV-hole in the slums.
This is a mall in Kolkatta where the finals of the match between India and Sri Lanka is viewed.
This is a movies theater in Karachi, Pakistan where cricket is telecast during the cricket season.
So, now coming back to the FIFA World Cup to be held in Brazil, all that I would say is that, the temperature is slightly lukewarm in comparison to the fever of the cricket playing nation.
Yes, we do talk a lot about it. But I guess that is about it. And, perhaps, some real football fans would watch it because they are really that – football fans.
By the way, did you catch Brazilian World Mom, Eco Ziva’s, post on the World Cup this week?
So what happens in your country? Is it a football-crazy country too? Or does your country live for some other sport?
Photo credit to the author, The Daily Mail and The Atlantic.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog written by Purnima Ramakrishnan, our Senior Editor from India.