A Pumpkin and a Perfect Smile

This past weekend Collier had his Boy Scout troop over to roast weenies and carve pumpkins. From the time Brian brought his pumpkin in on Monday, he drove us crazy about when he could carve it. He’s never really been a big pumpkin carving fan, but something tells me a recent Dude Perfect video that included a pumpkin carving contest had something to do with his excitement. I honestly didn’t know if he was going to be able to physically contain himself until the official carving time arrived. 😊

Meanwhile, I was starting to get a little nervous about the whole carving thing. It sounded like fun when we made the plans a few weeks ago, but as it got closer and started to become a bigger and bigger deal to Collier an all too familiar feeling of dread set in. See, there have been so many times in the past when our little Clark Griswold has built things up in his head as the greatest thing ever and then when whatever the activity was got here and he struggled to do it or it didn’t come out the way he wanted, big time disappointment and frustration would hit him. And let’s be honest, for someone who struggles with fine motor skills there’s nothing better than handling miniature saws, knives, and scoopers to make you ruin your day.

I was kind of hoping maybe the excitement of carving would wear off as we made our way through the week and watched the DP video 1,856,324 times, and maybe he wouldn’t hang his entire evening on that activity. But, no luck. He was talking about carving pumpkins before we even got the weenie roasting fire going.

My next big plan was to make the other parts of the party last as long as possible to delay what I knew was going to be a pumpkin carving catastrophe. However, these boys were moving through this party like they had a to-do list: fire started ü, hot dogs roasted ü, brownies eaten ü. Before some of the adults had even finished eating, they were screaming “pumpkin carving.” Honestly, it’s like they were trying to all get the party planning badge.

So with the small pit in my stomach growing bigger by the minute, I collected all the accoutrements of pumpkin carving. In addition to our mini saws and scoopers we had kitchen knives, big spoons, pencils and markers to make our own designs, and books of templates for the more adventurous.  We tried desperately to steer Collier toward a good old fashioned two triangle eyes and a smile pumpkin, but no, he found some kind of template with a skeleton hand reaching over a skull. Oh great, I thought, I can’t imagine how this is going to end.

In the end he won, big surprise, and Brian showed him how to put the template on his pumpkin and use the little punch tool to outline his design. Not too long after that, Brian and I got distracted and started talking to some of the other parents. I didn’t figure it would be too long before he needed help with the saw so I was just in stand by mode. 

After probably 10 or more minutes Brian happened to look over at him and his eyes got big. I saw the face and with a certain amount of apprehension turned to look at Collier. My eyes immediately got big as well. There was Collier, carving out his design by himself. He was handling the saw and knife along the design he had punched, and was carefully pulling out the pieces as he finished a section. He looked up and gave me a big smile.

I can’t describe how proud I was to see him sitting there, participating in an activity just like the rest of his troop. He still needed his dad for some of the final clean up work, but he did the majority of the work himself and was so excited about how it turned out. It was definitely better than any pumpkin I’ve ever carved.

After all the kids were finished, we put candles in the pumpkins and took their pictures. I could tell from Collier’s face how excited he was to have been able to do this on his own. And with each picture I took, my dread melted into delight. I was so happy for him and so thankful we were given an evening where he could just enjoy an activity like every other kid.

It was also such a reminder to me of how far we’ve come. There was a time a few years ago he wouldn’t have been even able to hold the tools steady, let alone use them correctly. But here he was after what feels like an eternity of scissor skills, pincher grasp work, and a million other fine motor skill exercises, actually using those skills successfully.

There are some days that are so hard, when I feel like we’re practicing a skill we should have mastered ages ago. Days when I’m convinced social media exists only to remind me of all the things he should be doing at his age and, even more painfully, of the things he may never do. Days that I’m just not sure anything I’m doing is making any impact. But then along comes a pumpkin and a perfect smile to remind me that we are making progress.

For now, the symbol of that progress is sitting on my front porch, with the candle still inside.

My prayer is that long after the pumpkin is gone, my hope for what he can do lingers, so that next year, when the time comes, I can hand him his pumpkin and let him go.

~ Amye

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