The Water Giver – The Story of a Mother, a Son, and Their Second Chance
by Joan Ryan
Joan Ryan is the parent of a Marin teenager, a boy whose school life was characterized by behavior problems, ADHD, and less than stellar academic performance. His mom’s main (but not only) focus had been on diagnosis, treating and correcting his problems. Then one day he has a harrowing skateboard accident, spends over 90 days in the hospital having multiple brain surgeries, and begins a slow recovery process. Most of the book chronicles this process and the heartbreak of families dealing with the fear of losing a child or getting one back who they may not recognize due to the long term and often devastating effects of traumatic brain injuries.
In that process, his mom learns just how much she loves him and appreciates all of the wonderful qualities that perhaps she had minimized in the past: his loving nature, his sense of humor, his ability to create things with his hands using only a few tools.
Many of you may know Joan Ryan, her son, or many of the others teens whose experiences she references in the book. The events are all recent.
There are several reasons to read this book. I’ll quote the lines that hit home for me:
“Maybe parents are so busy making money for college tuition, and the kids are so busy making good grades, that families become loving strangers.”
Once Ryan begins his road to recovery and returns to school, Joan says, “I rarely looked at his grades. They didn’t matter. The progress I wanted to see was in self-confidence, in the ability to research and organize, the willingness to try again when he failed, the ability to control his temper and frustration when he didn’t understand something or felt overwhelmed.”
“Motherhood is about raising – and celebrating – the child you have, not the child you thought you would have.”
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