Early Memories of Physical Activity

A few months ago, I read on another blog about Carrie Underwood’s book Find Your Path: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life. One of the aspects that immediately appealed to me in the book, are the journal prompts. Yes, duh, you know, I’m a sucker for journal prompts. However, Carrie Underwood’s journaling prompts are not just random one-liners, they’re deep questions. One of them is about early memories of physical activity. Today, I want to share my thoughts on this.

As a young child, I loved playing outside. I used to build sandcastles in the wooden sandpit my father had built, not even caring that the wood hadn’t been treated so it got moldy every once in a while. I remember telling you all the story of how my father used to call my Kindergarten friend, whose last name translates to Peat in English, “Kim Mud”.

When I got older, I loved learning to rollerskate. I remember joining an informal neighborhood rollerskating “club” led by the oldest of two girls who lived next door. She was my age and could rollerskate real good or so we all thought. I wasn’t nearly as good or even as good as my own younger sister, but who cared? I didn’t.

I got a large tricycle when I was about seven or eight because I couldn’t ride a bike due to my cerebral palsy. Not that I could safely ride a bike, given my visual impairment, but apparently the rehabilitation physician had no idea. I occasionally rode my tricycle, but preferred to walk around the neighborhood.

However, by age seven or eight, when I started to lose my vision, my physical activity level also started to decrease. I am pretty sure it’s more than just my vision though, but there’s no way to prove this as my parents stopped taking me to specialists around that age. I am considering asking my GP or the intellectual disability physician at the care facility for a referral back to rehabilitation medicine, because I want to learn to make the most use of the mobility I do have.

I did till my mid-teens love to sit on the swings. I’m not sure that counts, as it is a sedentary activity, but you do move your legs pushing yourself. I would go on the swings for hours on end. Now though, I get dizzy even going on the swings for five minutes at a time.

A thing I also did from toddlerhood until I moved out of my parental home at age nineteen, was this crawling-in-place movement while in bed. By the time I hit adolescence, my parents complained that I ruined the bed and made too much noise, but I continued to move in this way exactly until I moved to the independence training home. I could do this for hours on end too and I now realize it’s probably a form of autistic stimming.

Overall, I wasn’t physically active in most of the traditional ways. I wasn’t in sports as a child and P.E. was one of my least favorite classes. However, I can’t say I sat on my butt all the time. I didn’t even as an adolescent, though I probably was more sedentary then than I should have been.

How about you? Were you physically active as a child?

How I Was Disciplined As a Child

Hi everyone. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “rules and discipline”. I am going to try to keep this post as non-triggering as possible, but if you endured childhood abuse, you might want to skip this post. Then again, maybe what I endured wasn’t abuse at all? Well, in that case actual survivors might want to skip it because it might come across as invalidating.

My parents rarely set clear rules when I was a child or teen. I can’t remember having curfews and, even at ten-years-old, I was allowed to stay awake in my room for as long as I wanted provided I didn’t wake anybody else.

In this sense, none of the provided questions in Maggie’s original post made much sense. I mean, I was often sent to my room as punishment, but I cannot remember what for. I also was never told how long to stay in my room, so I usually stayed for about an hour then slowly re-emerged.

My parents, both of them, also used corporal punishment. However, I get a feeling that they hit me more out of a sense of powerlessness than out of a righteous wish to set me straight. Unfortunately, corporal punishment didn’t stop when I got older. In fact, the last time I was hit, was when my parents more or less kicked me out of the house when I was nineteen. And then I don’t include the time my mother tried to slap away my hand from my hair to prevent me twirling it when I was 23 but I slapped her hand away.

My parents, like I said, didn’t have clear-cut rules, but they did have expectations about socially appropriate behavior. They had their own words for ridiculing me when I “misbehaved”.

The positive side of there not being many clear rules, was that my parents encouraged me to do things most other teens, and certainly disabled teens, would not have been allowed to. I was allowed on a four-week-long summer camp to Russia at age fourteen, being the youngest of the Dutch participants and the only one with a disability (the program officially catered towards the visually impaired). Then again, when I struggled socially in Russia and for this reason wasn’t allowed back the next year, my parents, especially my father, completely guilt-tripped me rather than showing me support.

I was mostly a rule-follower, insofar as there were rules at all. However, as a teen, I became secretive. I actually had my father drive me to a meeting of people with mental illness when I was seventeen, while I’d led him to believe it was a disability meeting (because one of the people there was in a wheelchair). I’m pretty sure he knew, but he never confronted me.

I don’t have children of my own, so I cannot say whether my upbringing influenced the way I discipline them. However, I did find I got easily triggered when I got the impression my sister and brother-in-law used corporal punishment on my older niece (this was before the younger one was born). Thankfully, they were able to reassure me that they didn’t.

A Courageous Choice

I was a shy, withdrawn teen who was loyal to my parents even though they didn’t have my best interest in mind. I mean, if they’d had their way, I’d have gone to university and lived on my own straight out of high school in 2005, even though I could barely take care of myself. That had been their attitude towards raising “responsible” children ever since I was a little girl: if I couldn’t – or in their opinion was too strong-willed to – learn a skill as a child, I’d learn it as an adult by myself. Or not. In any case, there was no safety net.

Though I do indeed feel that children benefit from learning by doing themselves, this was not how it worked in my family. I don’t blame my parents for not having the patience to teach me self-care skills, given that I got frustrated very easily, but I do hold them responsible for not having accepted the help they could have gotten. Though it might not have led to me becoming as independent as they’d want me to be, my current situation is about as far from that goal as can be. Then again, my parents hold me responsible for that. And I, in a sense, do too.

I was reminded of this situation when I read a journaling prompt that asked me to reflect on a courageous choice I made as a teen that’s still helping me today. I immediately thought of the choice to go into blindness training rather than straight to university once I’d graduated high school. Though this decision itself did not by far lead to the self-awareness I needed to try to get into long-term care, it was my first step into the care system. And, of course, as my parents predicted, I never fully got out.

Back in June of 2005, when I accepted the blindness training center psychologist’s offer to put me on the waiting list for the basic training program, I still had my head deep in the sand about my lack of independence skills. The psychologist did not. He suggested I go to a training home after finishing the program. He probably knew that, like many young people blind from birth, and especially those from families like mine who value academics over life skills, I wouldn’t be ready to move into independent living after a four-month, basic program. I wasn’t. I never would be. Till this day, I’m not sure whether this is my blindness or my autism or my mild cerebral palsy or what. I believe strongly that, with multiple disabilities, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Thankfully, the authorities approving my long-term care funding, eventually agreed.

Precious Memories of My Father

Hi everyone. Today in her Sunday Poser, Sadje asks us to share our most precious memory of our father or the father figure in our life.

My father was a homemaker and my and my sister’s primary caretaker when we were children. As such, he, rather than my mother, was the one I’d see when I came home from school.

As a child, I took very much after my father, but now I have very mixed feelings about our relationship. My father is intelligent and he knows it. He also knows that I am intelligent and he feels that this somehow negates all my problems. In his opinion, all people who disagree with him, particularly those in the helping professions, are stupid.

Because my father and I are both intelligent, my father did encourage my cognitive development from an early age. This is evident in my different response to my parents when prompting me, for example. There’s this Dutch nursery rhyme that goes: “One, two, three, four, paper hat, paper hat.” Whenever my mother chanted: “One, two, three, four…”, I’d reply with “paper hat”. When my father chanted the same though, I’d reply with “five!”.

this is not a direct memory I have of my father though, as I was too young to form actual, verbal memories when this happened. I do remember, however, my father teaching me math when I was about seven. He would show me square calculation by using computer chips that were square-shaped. He’d lay them in a row of, say, three, then lay them in a square of three by three and explain that this is a square calculation. (The Dutch word for the square calculation and the shape isn’t the same, so I had to follow an extra step.) Similarly, he’d explain squareroots by doing the reverse.

We would also spend long evenings looking at his world atlas to see where different countries and other geographic areas were located. I still had enough vision to, with some difficulty, follow his finger along the maps.

When I got older, I had to catch up on reading, as this was one of my weaker subjects, mostly because I didn’t like the fact that I had to read Braille. My father encouraged me, well more like forced me, to do extra reading at home. One memory I have is of me reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Dutch when I was about eleven. To show me that he, too, was taking up a challenge, he read the book in its original English. I am currently listening to the audiobook in English on Apple Books.

In short, my father nurtured my intellectual side. Currently, I much more value my creative side, which my mother nurtured (a little). Still, my memories of doing academics with my father are mostly good.

Sunday Ramble: Childhood Memories

Hi everyone. I’m participating in E.M.’s Sunday Ramble again. Today’s topic is childhood memories. Here are the questions.

1. What is your first good memory from your childhood? (If this is a trigger question for you, tell me how your day is and what the best thing is about today.)
My third birthday. My grandma visited and gifted me a doll she’d bought in Berlin, Germany. Either she or my father explained that, in German, the word for doll is “Puppe”, which is pronounced the same as the Dutch word for “poo”. Of course, me being three and my sister being one, we laughed our butts off.

2. Name 3 things that you loved when you were just a youngster?
Playing with PlayMobil®. Swinging on the swings. Making mud pies.

3. What did you dislike, or even hate, when you were growing up?
A lot of things, as my childhood wasn’t the best. However, I’ll keep this non-triggering. I hated it when my sister was singing or humming.

4. If you could go give your younger self one piece of advice, what would you tell them?
You have absolutely zero obligation to prove your worth to your parents or anyone else.

5. What kind of celebrations did you enjoy when you were little, and do you still like those celebrations now that you are grown?
I had a love/hate relationship with all kinds of celebrations. I loved getting presents and special treats, but hated the social obligations involved. When I was a child and teen, we celebrated St. Nicholas. This involves pretending that St. Nick gave us presents. Once I no longer believed in St. Nicholas, I greatly struggled to play along and this led to some frustration among my sister and parents. Needless to say, now that I’m an adult, we no longer celebrate St. Nicholas. My sister and her family do celebrate it with my parents though.

I felt similarly about my birthday, loving the presents but not liking the social aspects. Same now that I’m an adult and more so with my family of origin, because, well, we don’t have the best relationship. With my husband and in-laws, I do like being together for my birthday.

6. Bonus Question: What commercial did you always wait for to come on television as a child? (If you didn’t like commercials or television, what event did you wait for to come about when you were a kid?)
I didn’t really enjoy commercials, although I liked Loeki the Lion, who came on inbetween commercials on public television. He was recently reintroduced after an absence of over twenty years I believe.

With respect to TV shows in general, as a child I loved a show called Droomshow (Dream Show), in which a pair of girls competed against a pair of boys in all kinds of candy-related games and the winning team had to shoot for prizes while the losing team got the “shitty shower”.

What was your first good childhood memory?

Learning to Swim

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “learning to swim”. There are no specific questions, but we are allowed to interpret the topic as we see fit. Here goes.

I got my first swimming lessons at the special school for the visually impaired I attended from first up to third grade. I, however, was very scared of the water and particularly of the deeper end. I vividly remember my teacher taking me to the deep end and my anxiously asking her if she could stand there. She was quite tall, but even so, she couldn’t. That scared me intensely.

According to my parents, my teachers were just overprotective, so my parents put me in swimming lessons at the pool close by their home. I didn’t need to start at the really shallow end, as I had had some swimming experience already, but could start at the 90cm deep second pool. Within a week, I was moved to the 110cm deep third pool, even though I think I protested.

It took me several more years before I earned my first swimming diploma. This first diploma at the time required students to be able to do breaststroke and backstroke, to swim one pool length with loose-fitting clothing, to tread water, etc., but it did not require students to swim underwater.

By the time I got my diploma, I had transferred to another school for the blind, where I had once again been put into the relatively shallow pool. I proudly showed my teachers my swimming diploma that I’d earned at home and was reluctantly transferred to the deep end.

From earning my first swimming diploma to my second, it took me only about eight months. The second diploma required students to swim 7m underwater. There was no way I could see whether I’d passed the 7m mark, so I had to guess. According to my parents, I swam about 11m.

After that, I had swimming lessons for the next three years that I was at various schools for the blind, but I never earned any more diplomas or certificates. The reason was, once again, the fact that my fear started to act up. After all, I wouldn’t swim under a mat. My parents, however, were okay with it this time. After all, my sister never moved beyond her second swimming diploma either.

I now can swim in a pool or lake. When my parents took me and my sister on vacation to Vlieland, I would also sometimes swim in the North Sea. I doubt I’d be able to save myself should I get underwater unintendedly though.

Childhood Creative Endeavors #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter C post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I initially wanted to write about cardmaking, but I don’t feel like that now. Instead, I’m going to talk about my creative endeavors as a child.

As a young child, I had a bit of useable vision that allowed me to use colors sort of appropriately (that is, as appropriately as a sighted child my age could). I loved learning about the names of unusual colors. I remember, in particular, learning that the sixth color of the rainbow is indigo, which I was fascinated by.

I could do some basic drawing too. In Kindergarten, I went to mainstream school with hardly any accommodations. I remember having to color inside the lines of a piece of paper, giving each little shape within the drawing a different color and not leaving any white. When, several years later, I looked at it, I saw considerable white. I have no idea how I compared to the other kids though.

By the age of eight, I’d lost the ability to tell most shades of green and blue apart, but I continued to love drawing until I was about age twelve. Then, I realized I’d lost so much vision that it’d make no sense. Even so, before then, my drawings up till that age remained comparable to a Kindergartner’s in quality.

When I went to special education, I was taught other creative activities. I remember making at least a dozen origami frogs in second grade. However, my teacher did at one point write on my report card that she wished she were two teachers so that she could teach together. In other words, I required so much attention that she’d really need to split herself in half to be able to teach the class too.

My parents bought a pottery kiln when I was about eleven, so I also tried my hand at ceramics. I wasn’t too good at it, leaving fingerprints on my work all the time, but at least I enjoyed the process.

Writing also was a lifelong passion of mine. I can’t, in fact, remember a time when I didn’t enjoy writing. At first, I’d make up stories to go along with my drawings. As a tween and teen, I wrote stories that were somewhat or very much related to my real life. My greatest achievement is a work in progress, a young adult novel by the working title of “The Black Queen” about a teen whose mother has multiple sclerosis. This story, though it had autobiographical elements, was inspired by a conversation I overheard about a classmate.

Did you love creative activities as a child?

Illness or Injury

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is, as Lauren describes it, “Ouchies, owies and boo boos”. In other words, we’re asked to share our experiences of illness or injury when we were growing up. Now is an interesting time for this, as I’ve just recovered from the worst symptoms of COVID. Even though I had a mild case of it, I am tempted to take back my assertion that it’s “just a bad cold” even in my case. I’m still exhausted by 9PM, or at least was yesterday, and today just a walk around the day center had me horribly out of breath. Forget the elliptical, which I told my husband yesterday that I’d try to go onto today. Anyway, that’s as far as my current state of illness is concerned. Now, let me share about my childhood illnesses and injuries.

As a young child, until I had my tonsils and adenoids out as a Kindergartner, I was prone to colds and the flu. I can’t remember whether my parents let me stay home for most of these illnesses. Later though, we clearly had the rule that, if I ran a fever, I was sick and had to stay home. Otherwise, I wasn’t sick and had to go to school. Not that I remember ever “playing sick”.

I don’t think I was ever given medicine, such as painkillers, unless it was obvious from outward signs that I was sick either. I mean, I do remember having to take paracetamol as a child, but not for a headache or toothache. We did have a licorice-flavored cough syrup, but I only took it when my parents directed me to. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I first learned to ask for medication myself. For the brief time that I lived independently and could take over-the-counter medications when I felt like it, I didn’t either unless a support worker directed me to. In fact, I remember buying a talking thermometer back then because I was feeling weak often and, relying on my parents’ rule that you had to have a fever to be sick, I wanted to know my body temp.

Similarly, I wasn’t taken to the doctor for minor illnesses or injuries usually, unless my parents decided they were enough of an outward abnormality to be taken seriously. I remember my father took me to the doctor one day when I was about fourteen because I had bad eczema on my neck. I didn’t see the need, but apparently it was so ugly that my father wanted me to get treated.

When I was about seventeen, I made my first appointment to see my GP by myself. I had a horrible earache, which turned out nothing to be the doctor could do much about, by the way. However, my parents said I also had to ask about getting treatment for my toenail fungus, which I didn’t consider particularly bothersome at the time. To be fair, I do now see they were right to be worried about my toenail fungus, even though it took me fifteen more years to finally get it treated properly. However, overall, I’d had it with their message that my outward appearance alone dictates when I should get help (medical or otherwise) and this was probably my first small act of rebellion. I never quite learned to gauge when I can trust my body’s signals (or my mind’s interpretation of them) and when I can’t. I’m finding that, for this reason, even up till this day, I rely mostly on other people’s judgment.

Pocket Money Tales

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is chores and allowances. Let me share my experiences.

Regarding chores, I could easily be short and sweet: no, I did not have any. Neither did my sister. We were raised with the expectation that we’d leave the house as soon as we graduated high school, but we were hardly taught any of the skills of independence, much less expected to contribute to the household on a regular basis. My sister was occasionally expected to do the dishes once she was about twelve or so. Same probably for me, but my parents quickly decided I took too long, didn’t do it right or made too much of a fuss over it, probably all three.

My sister, who’s non-disabled, somehow managed the skills of independence by observing my parents anyway. I, being blind and multiply-disabled, did not. When I left for the independence training home right after high school, I had virtually no skills necessary for living independently. I am forever grateful I persevered and decided to take this step rather than moving out on my own right away.

Regarding allowances, or pocket money as it was known in our family, the situation was a little more interesting. I got my first pocket money at age seven. I got one guilder a week. A few months later, I’d turn eight and my father promised me I’d get two guilders a week provided I’d stop leaving the lights on in my bedroom when I wasn’t there. The reason being that, if I no longer left the lights on, he would save on electricity and could give me more pocket money. I doubt it’d seriously make a difference of one guilder a week, but I’m not entirely sure he hadn’t possibly calculated it somehow. That’s how he is, after all.

That brings me to my next pocket money story, some eight years later.
I originally couldn’t remember whether we already used euros at the time. Not that it matters for the morale of the story, but I saw the official documentation relevant to this story and now know we already had euros. I must’ve been sixteen and was rather angry because my sister got a higher allowance than I’d gotten at her age, so I now wanted more too. At first, my parents got all defensive, calling me selfish because I was playing the “not fair” card. Then, after both of us at calmed down, my father asked me to write a budget of things I’d need pocket money for. If it was within reason, I’d get what I’d asked for.

I had asked for €10 a week. I created a budget (that’s the “official documentation” I referred to above!) fitting all my personal expenses, including candy, jewelry, memberships to the children’s choir and the political party I was a member of at the time, into this budget. Ultimately, my budget showed I needed €555,60 a year. When my father saw it, he commented that I’d been far too careful to try to fit my budget into what I’d demanded. I particularly remember him saying he couldn’t believe I’d just spend €2,50 a week on candy, for example. And I must admit he was right. My father told me that €100 a month was a more reasonable allowance and so it happened that I got more than twice the amount of pocket money I’d originally fought for!

Were you taught about budgeting as a child?

Generosity

Today’s prompt for #JusJoJan is “Generosity”. I don’t tend to think of myself as a particularly generous person. That would not only be arrogant, but it would be incorrect as well. Particularly as a child, I liked receiving more than I liked giving. I was a very jealous child, often envying my sister for what she got and I didn’t.

I remember one day, when my sister and her friends had been participating in the four-day walking event in my city. It was the last day of the event and I was allowed to walk with them for this occasion. At the finish line, a parent of one of my sister’s friends had lots of candy for my sister and her friends, but he had none for me. I had a full-on tantrum in the car home even though my sister and her friends ended up giving me more candy than they kept for themselves. It caused the oldest friend, a girl my age, to cry. I was ten at the time, so far too old for toddler tantrums like this. I feel intense shame about this incident as I look back, seeing that I should have known it wasn’t fair of me to expect candy since I hadn’t walked the entire event. Much less should I have tantrummed about it in the car.

Now that I’m an adult, I am a little less worried about material goods and a lot less jealous of others, but it still doesn’t come natural to me to give material things away. Thankfully, generosity comes in different ways and I do love expressing it in other ways. I love to create my own gifts for people. Yes, of course they are material too, but that feels different.

Still, I am often reminded of the Sesame Street episode in which Bert and Ernie have a cake and Ernie gives Bert the smaller slice. Bert teaches him that he’s supposed to offer Bert the larger slice first. Then Ernie asks: “So what would you do if you were to offer me the cake?” Then he replied he’d take the smaller slice and offer Ernie the larger slice. “But you have the smaller slice now, like you wanted!” Ernie objects. This is child logic and it is incorrect. It is not how we’re supposed to be generous. We are supposed to love others like ourselves. Others before ourselves, even.

I pray God leads me to a life of greater generosity. I know I am supposed to love others as myself and that includes giving generously of myself to others. Like I said yesterday, when I trust that God will provide for my needs, He will. As a follower of Christ, I have no need to worry. In the end, everything will work out okay.