Sunday, February 26, 2012

Self-acceptance, as taught by my two-year-old

I had written the following prior to Julia's but I guess it's a good theme/topic to stick with...

Today is the second birthday of my daughter, Eliza. Like her oldest sister, Gwen, Eliza has cerebral palsy. Birthdays in our household are a time of celebration and reflection.

We reflect on the milestones over the past year, our best memories and our victories of adjusting to life with three children (Violet is my rambunctious three-year old). As I focus on the celebration at hand, one thing is clear to me: Eliza's cares are the same as any other two year-old child.  

She loves being included with her sisters and enjoying the happiest moments in her little life. Very little causes her to be upset. She seems to be forgetting about her brain injury, even though that's tough for me to do. The realization of this teaches me that my losses are not hers.  

When I thumb through her one-year photo album (yes, they still exist), I see her eyes are brighter than a year ago, her smile is bigger and her life is more fulfilling in many ways. She contributes to sisterhood and our family in ways I never could have imagined.

A year ago, I was still grieving over who I thought I had lost because of her disabilities – a road that I that is familiar to me because of my oldest child with CP.   

Today, I'm prepared to focus on celebrating two years of her life – the exact moment and the feelings I embraced as she was arrived in the world – while my memories of the darkest days and her medical accident are getting shorter (and less vivid).

She, on the other hand, watches Sesame Street, loves Elmo and couldn't care less about these kinds of adult thoughts and emotions. Eliza has and continues to teach me that children are always fine with who they are. At two years old they accept themselves 100 percent.

What a relief it would be for me if I could have that kind of acceptance for myself all of the time, as well as for all others.  Acceptance is so tricky. The slightest words or events can cause anger, hatred or even worse - violence.

If Eliza could talk, I bet she'd tell me “No matter how tough your life starts out or currently is, it gets so much easier when you begin accepting yourself, even before accepting others.”

As I witness her little beautiful life, I can't help but remember the significance of self-acceptance for all of us - big and small.

With that said, I must thank Eliza and wish her a very happy birthday.

Tim Gort is a writer, public speaker and advocate for special needs children, their families and those affected by medical errors. He writes about being the father of three children, two with cerebral palsy, at his blog and is a healthcare consultant on patient-centered care.