By Cristina Stanger, Self-Advocacy Liaison, WRFN
*This article was originally published in the Family Pulse Newsletter March 2021*
I have worked through some trying times, in part because my exceptionality went undetected, and thus unsupported, for many years. Sometimes I look back on that period with sadness, but at other times I look back and think about how far I’ve come. In other words, I focus on growth. And now, once again, I find myself turning to growth as a tool to gain perspective.
It has been nearly a year since we began altering our day-to-day lives as a coordinated response to COVID-19 in our community. I have found the ongoing protocols, the ever-present challenges, and the continued uncertainty about the future, are all weighing more heavily on me lately. And as my days blur together, and the passage of time feels simultaneously slow and rapid, I started to uncover some areas of growth as I reflected on the trials of this past year. My hope is that you might be able to find growth too, if you give it some consideration.
As an individual I have grown by learning new things and reviving old skills. And to be clear, I do not mean cultivating a new hobby; a novel leisure activity may feel completely out of reach if you have found yourself or your family operating in survival mode for the past year. I suggest looking for smaller things. For me, I developed positive habits in the kitchen, minimizing food waste as I stretched out the time between grocery runs. I practiced my French while supporting my child with remote learning. I learned several digital platforms and have made use of them to connect with friends and family, both locally and abroad. I even discovered some tools that I can use in the future to help me better meet some of my special needs.
Areas of growth can extent to a family unit too. Have you and your family created any new traditions? I began Cinema Saturdays and Ice Cream Sundae Sundays as a way to distinguish weekends from weekdays. I am fairly certain that these will be long standing traditions in my house, long after this pandemic is behind us. We have also gotten creative in our virtual interactions with extended family by doing storytime, board games, crafts, and pizza parties online.
I have observed community growth as well. Organizations, such as libraries and EarlyON centres, have pivoted to provide services in new ways. There has been community building between neighbours as they share ideas and resources. I have seen renewed interest in natural areas and increased use of outdoor playgrounds and community ice rinks.
And as I muddle along as best I can on this journey, I find taking pause to seek out the positive growth helps me to see my times of struggle in a different light. As the pandemic continues to stretch us and test us, we are also growing along the way.