As I started this process, all these memories being brought back to life, I realized that not all my lessons came from Tony. Most did, but some came from his sister Elaina as well. So I am going to post this on Tony and then take a couple of posts on the process of winning over Elaina. OK, so now I am in the process of potty training, shower training and am about to embark on the art of dressing oneself. Of all three process, this one actually went very well. Except for the underwear. We started with the socks because that was the hardest for me to do. I would hold the sock open and make Tony pull it up. Piece of cake. Within a week, he could put on his socks. From there, we moved to the underwear. If I held the pants open, he could pull them up. But when I would just give them to him, he would get them on backwards. That's just not right. So I came up with the idea of showing him the tag and having him put that in back. Bad idea. He would put the tag in front. No matter what I did, tag in front. So we tried a new tactic. I would put the underwater across his legs and make him turn it until he could put his finger into the opening. Then he could grab the edges and put them on. Success! Sort of. You see what I was missing is the fact that he did not care because he had to sit down anyway. It was only important to me. But as a matter of principal, I make him do it anyway. Once we got past that, the t-shirt and pants and shirt all fell into place. He was actually dressing himself within two weeks. This did open up one can of worms, now that he knew how to put on his clothes, he also knew how to change his clothes....sometimes two to three time a day. As my dad says, "ain't life great". In all of this, Tony would cheer and give Hi-Fives whenever he got dressed. He found a new freedom. He even began to pick out his own clothes that he wanted to wear. In my world of "normal" I had taken so much for granted. I couldn't even remember a time when I was thankful just to pick out my own clothes. It also confirmed for me that God put in every one of us the ability to push past "our current condition" and enjoy the excitement of doing something you've never done before. All of my life I have been challenged to push past, do the things they say can't be done. My father, who never made it past the seventh grade, had twenty two patents when he retired. His hand crafted steam engines are museum quality. He used to tell me, you are a child of the God who made everything, ask for what you need and get busy applying your self at it. I realized that Tony was a child of the same God and just needed to be pushed.
"The Early Days" represent the first several months of our marriage. So almost all of the posts for the next few weeks will take place in that time period. It was a period of INTENSE, multifaceted training for both of us. Combine that with some time spent trying to win over Elaina, and I had my hands full. Needless to say, it also tested, and streghtened our marriage. Tony and Elaina attended the Ottawa Area Center every day, and like any other school, there were parent teacher days. One of Tony's teachers, a very petite thing, called me aside during during my first such visit and shared some life changing secrets with me. In her opinion, Tony had been "coddled" for way to long. He was, as she put it, a spoiled, manipulative child. She believed that if someone, namely me, worked with Tony, he could be taught how do most all the required daily chores, like showering and dressing. Now the way she put this it was not a suggestion. More like I expect to see changes before me meet again, DAD! So off I went. That night at dinner, I reviewed all this with Geri and she said to go for it. She always gets this little funny half smile when she says that. I told her I would tackle showering first. So later that night we headed for the shower. Once I had Tony undressed and in the shower, I took and put the hair shampoo in his hand and then with my hands started to make him wash his head. No biggie right? Wrong. Tony in his own way understood that I was trying to change his lifestyle and he began to scream like I was cutting off his fingers one by one. I couldn't believe it. In my mind I was thinking Geri would divorce me. But my mind was set, and I was not going to give up. I made Tony put the soap in his hand and then I would take his hand and help him wash. All the time he would be screaming. This process did not take as long as the "pinch and turn training". In less than 30 days Tony was showering himself. Just get his water set set to the right temperature and send him in. What a piece of cake showering him became for me and really good for Tony as he now had learned new skills. It also confirmed what the young lady had told me, Tony was smart enough to learn, and so was I.
In all of this, what really impressed me was my wife. Day after day, listening to Tony scream, she never interfered. She just supported me and let me do what I had determined was best for our son. Brings to mind a Proverbs 31 woman...one who supports her husband. It was response I was not used to and it was an incredible booster to our relationship.