“Life happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon

Whether a mother or father has one child or five, whether their sons and daughters are “typically developing” or have a disAbility, in our culture, we tend to share a certain parenting pitfall: Expectations.

When a parent’s child is diagnosed with autism or any disAbility, it’s important to grieve. Ditto: when anything traumatic (or small) happens to anyone in life. Do get down and wallow in the emotions of loss. Sob, gnash, punch the air. Deal with the dirty. That’s how we move on with our lives, by first experiencing all the normal emotions of the real and healthy process of moving through loss. (Set a time limit: say, six months. Seek help at any point, but especially if grief is immobilizing and lasts longer than that time span.)

Then, it’s important to realize that what you have lost is not your child (in the case of learning that your child has a diagnosis).  What you have lost is not (fill in the blank,) but, rather, your expectations.

You see, we set ourselves up for misery and more grief in our lives with our carefully crafted expectations of how things will or even must be. Beatles’ icon John Lennon got it right when he crooned in “Beautiful Boy,” about his son Sean, that life happens when we are making plans. None of us can truly see over the horizon even from one moment to the next into a future that is not yet born. Parenting a daughter with significant special needs, I’ve had to learn and continue to learn that my life is richest and best lived by planting myself in this one now moment. When life begins to overwhelm, I challenge myself to make the best choice within this moment to propel me to the next. I am at greatest peace when I surrender my white-knuckled clench hold on how I expect things to turn out–in any situation big or small.

Breathe. And, release.

photo credit: Ashley Hylbert Photography

Author, speaker and now parent of a 20-year-old, Leisa A. Hammett continues to learn to “show up and be shown” one now moment to the next as she juggles the many balls of her creative life, including founding a non-profit social enterprise for adult artists with and without disAbilities to–in community–create, exhibit and sell their work. She welcomes additional jugglers to her current act. (Contact her via LeisaHammett.com to learn how to be involved with Art-TankNashville.)



 4 tips to easily transition to the school year

How is it possible that the school year is already approaching? As parents we get to relive the excitement—and often anxiety—of a new school year through our kids. Whether you are the parent who celebrates the return to school, or the parent who longs for summer to stick around, the goal is to make the transition back to school as easy on the whole family as possible.

Here are 4 tips to an easier transition to the upcoming school year:

Prepare the logistics. Is it a new school? If so, what’s the bus route? Who will be driving the kid(s) to school? How early will you need to leave? When my oldest started kindergarten, I didn’t think about looking into the bus route for our neighborhood. On his first day riding home on the bus, my poor kiddo was convinced that the bus wasn’t taking him home. The bus came through the subdivision the back way, and I had never had a reason to drive home from that direction before. Fortunately, he didn’t have to worry long since his was the second stop along the route.

Shop early for school supplies.  Growing up, I always loved shopping for new school supplies. Our school’s PTO gives us the option to purchase our supplies and have them READY AND  ON THE STUDENTS’ DESKS on the first day of school. If your school offers this, do it. It saves time and hunting, and your child won’t be wondering why his folder is not the same color as his friends’. If available, this usually has to be done early in the summer, so if you have missed it for this year, make sure to take advantage of it next year. Additionally, some schools and students do not have the resources for new supplies. If you are in need of supplies or if you have the ability to donate supplies, find out if your school has a sister school, or check for an organization in your area. If you do have the means to donate school supplies, involve your children in the process. Finally, double check dress code policies and purchase uniforms early if needed. Consider purchasing clothes/uniforms that fit slightly big in the event of a late-summer growth spurt.

Start your school-year routines early. Take a week or so at the end of the summer and begin some of your family’s school-year routines and rituals. On school days, do your kids usually put the next day’s clothes out before going to bed? Do they get dressed before breakfast? Do they go to bed later during the summer and get to sleep in? (Lucky you if they do! I wish my kids were capable of sleeping in!) Have they been watching more television? Go ahead and begin to cut back on screen time and increase book time. Starting some of these routines before school starts will help with the transition back to school.

Plan out your after-school activities. Look ahead to your after-school schedule. Are your kids involved in sports? Dance? Clubs? Find out if there is any overlap and figure out how kids will get to their activities. Planning ahead will make sure you have plenty of days with no scheduled activities. In our house, we are keeping two weekdays free of scheduled activities. This is a formula that has worked well for our family. Use an online family calendar to help everyone stay organized. In addition, it’s nice to have an activity board in the kitchen that can be reviewed each morning during breakfast.

I am excited about the new school year and look forward to my kids’ new adventures in the classroom.

Do you have any tips to share? What plans do you have to make your back-to-school transition go smoothly? Please share your tips!


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