|Dude, dragonboat race 2011|
I have never met anyone so unwavering once they make a decision. Dude sets his course and nothing short of divine intervention can deter him, for better or for worse. From something as minor as deciding on what he'll be for Halloween to something more involved like joining cadets or pursuing his passion for science. He has taught me the value of being focused and single minded.
Dude also has an incredible imagination. Whether he is making up stories, creating a Lego universe or dreaming up inventions, there are no limits to where his mind will take him. His room is littered with random sketches of improvements to household items, plans for future Lego projects and strategic battle plans for his army guys. He dreams and schemes and plans constantly and I love that he excitedly shares his creativity with anyone who will take the time to listen.
There are a million things to love about this kid but one of my very favourite things about him is his relentless pursuit of becoming a better person. Social skills don't come naturally to him; he has to work and study very hard to make sense of what comes so easily to most of us but he does, with very little complaining. He is constantly asking us what slang and metaphors mean, how to read body language and how to communicate what he's feeling appropriately. He spends a lot of time puzzling out how to show kindness and empathy, what it means to be a good friend and how he can better love the people in his world. This piece, this learning how to be human, has been the greatest gift to me.
Because of all the time I spend decoding and explaining social intricacies to him I have become more aware of the message I am putting out into the world. I have become more deliberate in how I communicate and kinder in what I communicate. I am constantly aware that not only is Dude watching me for cues but that my words and actions can have a lasting impact on others. I try very hard to make sure that what I show on the outside is true to the kind of person I am on the inside and that my Inside Person is the best person I can be.
I learned so much from Dude in these twelve years. I've learned to take the time to laugh at what is funny and not waste time crying over what doesn't matter. I've learned to see the beauty in a shark swimming through the cool ocean depths, to see the miracle of a rocket ship in flight and the wonder of special effects in movies. I've learned that there's no such thing as normal, that nothing is impossible if you have a curious mind and a willing heart and that there is no sadness so deep that 30 minutes with Mr. Bean can't fix.
I've learned to persevere, to hold on to hope and to see past the impossible to the miracle just waiting to be discovered. I've learned that a smile brings the same joy no matter what the diagnosis and that stupidity is a condition of ignorance not of brain function. I've learned that growth and change and progress happen continually and that we never have to be a person we don't want to be as long as we are willing to learn from others.
I can't believe its been twelve years since I first met him, held him and recognized him as my own. Twelve years has gone by so fast and yet I still have a lifetime to know and discover this curious creature, this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.