Monday, April 12, 2010

Keeping it All in Perspective

Some of you may already know by now that birthday parties of “typical” children are particularly tough for me. I don’t mean to whine, but because so many things are going on all at once that our children are expected to participate in, I can see exactly where my child falls behind the mark. It’s nothing bad, just eye-opening, kind of like hearing your kid’s PT tell you that your almost-4-year-old is at about a 24-month level physically. But that’s been hashed out already in a previous post. Add to the mix that you’re generally with a bunch of parents you don’t already know, and you always wonder, “what do they see?” Do they feel pity? Do they just thank their lucky stars that it’s not their kid? Who knows? Maybe they see/feel/think nothing outside the usual sights/feelings/thoughts that they have at any given time. Now to be fair, those parents have never been anything but friendly with me, and I can stand and gab with them like anyone else. Except when I’m chasing my child around to a) keep her from running out the door to get to the room where the birthday cake is hiding in all it’s Dora-covered glory, b) keep her from getting hurt on the equipment, c) keep her still when all the kids are supposed to be sitting quietly and listening to the instructor tell them the rules. Rules? Hah! Trust me, Sammi is not listening. And even if she was, I don’t think she’d care for them much. Samantha’s kind of hot and cold with these kinds of parties. Sometimes she’ll really participate and get into the action, following along, singing, etc.. Usually she’ll get ridiculously and uncharacteristically shy, arms folded across her chest, head down, pouting. And here I am, doing all the exaggerated motions just like the instructor, like a pathetically ineffective mime, trying to get her to join in.

Yesterday’s birthday party at The Little Gym was a very interesting experience for me. A mixed bag of sorts. Although Samantha was being completely uncooperative, she sure had her moments. While all the children were sitting in a circle (Sammi struggling to get off my lap) to listen to The Rules, the birthday girl, a very sweet, typically-developing child from her class at school (I don’t know why she’s in Special Ed, but I’m sure there is a good reason), spotted her and called out to her, “Sammi, Sammi!!! I missed you, Sammi! I missed you!” With a nudge, Samantha went and sat down next to her, giving her a big hug. I think every parent in there must’ve breathed a collective, “awwwwww” at that moment. I think every parent in there must’ve seen my eyes tear up, too. It was a stunner.

Perspective came to me with another child from her class, a boy with multiple physical and intellectual disabilities. Samantha has mentioned him before when we’ve asked her about school (well, she says his name frequently, anyway). He didn’t seem to interact much with others, and his mother had to stay close by him, monitoring all of his actions. While I watched her struggle to contain him on occasion, his size nearly half of hers, I saw that as he grows up her struggle will be infinitely compounded as his strength and size increase proportionately. She was so sweet and gentle with him, and I spoke to her when I could (when one or the other of us was not preoccupied). I didn’t recall seeing any of the other moms talk to her. I wondered if she felt isolated. I wondered what she saw. While I was feeling frustration that my child was throwing a tantrum about having to eat pizza before cake and while I had to stay near her to keep her from grabbing the cake off her neighbor’s plate, this mother praised her son for trying the cake, for chewing it so well, and for sitting in his chair instead of throwing himself on the ground. For all the times I wished Samantha could sit and enjoy her pizza and cake just like the other kids, did this mother wish her son could just eat his like Samantha? What did she see? What was her perspective like?

My daughter has amazing empathy. Makes me realize what’s truly important. As this little boy threw a small tantrum and cried on his mother’s shoulder, Samantha walked over to him, put her arms around him, hugged him and told him “’s’okay.” He calmed down instantly. His mother turned to me and gave me a look that I, myself, had had just a short time earlier. A look of amazement and hope that our little people can see past the surface and truly feel for each other.

16 comments:

kecia said...

wow! I just loved this post....we really all have to remember that it is all about perspective and help each other out!

tekeal said...

thank you for this... it echos many thoughts and feelings of my own, and offers new ones to think about.

Dawn said...

Okay, so you made me cry with this post but it was the good kind of cry.
You wrote your thoughts down so beautifully that I found myself way back in time when Taylor was little, wondering what others thought as they watched me with Taylor.

Thank you for sharing such an insightful post.

Lacey said...

I love it. People say DS kids are so loving, and us moms are like, whatever! But when it really comes down to it, they know when we are hurting and when we need hugs!

Erin said...

Lovely post. Sometimes I wonder what others are thinking too, if they feel sorry for me. But I have also found that I notice other moms and children more now that have something to offer them, compassion.

Cindy said...

Thank you for sharing this. I think we've all felt these exact emotions and asked these same questions. I wonder if those with typical developing children realize that even those of us who have children with special needs, sometimes feel uncomfortable in the world of special needs? We're all more alike than we think.

heather said...

Thanks for this great post!

Carol N. said...

Thanks for sharing that!

We've all got a lot to be thankful for. And many of us could learn from those little people.

Monica Crumley said...

How I've wondered those same things when we're in an environment with typically developing kids myself! What a beautiful gesture on Sammi's part to hug the boy. It really is about perspective. Thanks for your thought-provoking post.

Amber said...

You are SO right on. I try to remember this...and the great part is...I know you get that. :0)

*side note* when Grace was just in the hospital...and yes, she gets her paci when she is sleeping or being poked on...she was talking around it, to one of the nurses. Of course the nurse says...i can't understand what you are saying with that in your mouth. I proceed to say...oh goodness, of course, take it out Gracie and say it again. It sounded just like it did with the paci in *complete babble* and I couldn't stop myself from saying...was that better?
I really am kind about it most of the time, she caught us at a weak moment. ;0)

RobMonroe said...

Amazing story. So grateful that you shared it.

evrfwd said...

you are a great writer gurlfriend, really i'm thinking you should write a book, maybe two or three. all the stories of the day, the interactions of others and yourself are just magical. thanks for sharing your experience with us. oxox

Kacey Bode said...

I have a post about perspective saved as a draft. Perspective is an interesting thing, it all depends on who's eyes you are looking through. Now that I work at Ella's old school, for children 0-3 with disabilities, I realize just how easy we have it compared to other parents. I try really hard to remember that in the middle of all of Ella's exhausting naughty-ness.


Lovely post!!!!

Jenny said...

Loved this post, it was beautiful.

Vicki said...

I really needed this post today. I know the feelings, today was one of those tough "typical kids" days.

Michelle said...

aaww, this post brought tears to my eyes!