Monday, March 12, 2012

The Ones That Know Her


It's funny how a simple afternoon trip to the playground can stir so many emotions.  Funnier, I guess, that I could be so annoyed at a 6 (?) year old.  I mean, really, I'm a grown woman, why would something a random 6-year old girl said really need to bother me?

Sunday was the quintessentially perfect spring day.  30-something degrees at dawn, progressing upwards to about 65 or 70 by 4pm.  Cloudless blue skies, warm sun, light breeze.  Perfect

We walked over to the school playground at about 2pm, and saw several other children that we did not know playing on the climbers.  Samantha, considerably more hesitant on them than others her age, would begin to climb up something, then call, "help!  help!" even though she was really just playing around for effect, and didn't actually need help.  But the other children didn't know that.  A 6 or 7-year old girl offered to help by showing Samantha how to do certain things.  Samantha responded to her in her own way, and the girl would look quizically at me and say things like, "Why does she shout when she's talking?" (my response:  "She's just talking.") or "Huh?  What does 'shah' mean?"  (my response:  "She said 'sure.'").  It's kinda hard not to get snarky with a 1st grader.

And it really kinda got to me. 

I know, I know, grow some thicker skin, lighten up, pull up my big girl panties, it's not a big deal...

I know.

But Sammi's lip started to quiver, and I suspected she may have been a bit more aware of things than she let on.  I'm not sure, though, as Sammi has never shown that she's understood or been affected by the subtle nuances of conversation by other children, has never understood the sideways looks or avoidance of other children who don't want to play with a "baby", or who don't want to be hugged by some little girl trying to throw her arms around them.  I asked her if she wanted to go play on the other playground nearby, which has swings, and she did. 

Some more random children on the other playground, doing their own things, not really an issue (although I did get a little bit irritable with one little boy who, impatiently waiting behind Samantha for his turn on the jungle gym, said, "Does she even know how to do the jungle gym?"  I responded, "No, but she's got to try in order to learn."  The boy's father jumped in and reminded the boy that it took him about a hundred tries before he was able to do it - I love the parents around here!).  But they soon cleared out and we were alone. 

For a few minutes. 

Then..."Hi, Sammi!" 

Merciful joy, exquisite timing, a wonderfully familiar face.

A child from Sammi's class, a little girl about a head taller and 6 months older, with her grandmother.  The difference in her presence was staggering.  She wanted to play with Samantha.  She understood what Samantha was saying.  She didn't patronize her, and actually enjoyed their interaction.

And you know what?

She couldn't propel herself on the swings, either.

And she was scared to go down the slide on her tummy, something Samantha's been able to do forever

And they had fun

This really, really reinforces our reasons for wanting to keep Samantha in her home school, wanting her to move along with her typical peers.  They like her.  They protect her.  They encourage her.  They understand her.  And they live in the neighborhood.
The ones that know her are like night and day contrasted against the ones that don't. 

And that, friends, is the support system I'm so happy has been put in place, the ball I am so happy has begun to roll. 

The next step will be to turn those others into Ones That Know Her, too. 


Team Lando said...

Becca, you've been an example with this for me since... well, before Day 1. :) I'm officially getting off my butt and taking Ellie to playgroup this week. I never skip it on purpose or because of anything having to do with difference, just because we get busy doing other things. But it's SOOOO important to me that Ellie has friends in the neighborhood before Kindergarten even begins.

Anna said...

Becca, I am so glad you talked about this, your feelings towards the little ones. Im sure every mother reading this has felt that at least once,no matter what their situation looks like. This makes me wish we had lil G home much earlier, she will always be the adopted one. Even the children that try to include her look at me for answers and cues. Its very tiring. Point taken tho'~ its Spring break around here so I should make a few phone calls and try to get a play date or two together.

Leah said...

What great insight from this situation. So glad that she has friends that love her and definitely shows how far we wish everyone else would come.

Lisa said...

Last summer a little girl who had come to our pool to play but didn't know Cate asked me if Cate was speaking Spanish. My gut reaction was annoyance but I reacted passively. The same little girl has been around Cate a couple times since and tends to avoid playing with her but Cate couldn't care less. But I find the same thing out at playgrounds or even in sunday school. Her classmates don't treat her any different but other kids are wary. It proves to me as well that we made the right decision in fighting for her to be in general ed kindergarten and I need to do the same for 1st grade.

Anna Theurer said...

Becca, I always appreciate your insight and your experiences. I cringe when people say to grow a thicker skin and pull up their big girl panties. I want to ask if they ever had to do just that and was it easy. Anyway, thank you for sharing this story with us.

Shannon said...

I get this. And this is were what we have to deal with as special needs moms gets hard. We are not born mean, meaness is learned, but we are born self.centered and ignorant. We don't understand much outside of what we are effected by in our own worlds. This is way its zoo important for is to have thick skin and not get upset at a child's ignorance. I preach what I have not get practiced, but we should be greating painful comments about our kids with a life lesson. So that they learn and get to know our kids. I get how you see a home school eviroment being best, but keeping her from the majority of the community were they can really get to know her doesn't help the rest of the community. Which please don't get me wrong, I am not saying you are wrong. It's a tricky fine line of doing what's best, but just seeing how that one kid was so accepting and nice because she knows sammi, how many of those other kiddos would be that way if they were with sammi at school every day.

Becca said...

Sorry I was unclear - by "home school" I meant our local, public neighborhood school. Sammi is in a typical, public Kindergarten class with 24 students. The kids on the playground were a bit older (Sammi's 5) and may also be at her school, but it is a big school. :-)

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

awesome!! just awesome...I love the idea of neighborhood schools..that is why we go to ours and that Max will be with Maddie until he is a 8th help teach people how to treat Maddie...glad you all ended up having a great day at the park! yeah for friends..smiles

Jenny said...

I'm so glad you shared this...It's something we will all face at some time or another...I sure teared up at the end of this when reading about Sammi's little friend. I have to say I do take comfort in the fact we live in a small town and everyone knows everyone...Hopefully that will make things a little easier for Russell.

Lacey said...

Its so hard not to get snarky! We become so protective of our kids, but we also want them to be included. Its such a hard balance!

lovemy3 said...

I'm so happy the playground ended on a good note with a classmate that sees the wonderful little girl that Sammi is! I probably would have been more snarky than you...kudos to you!

Alicia Llanas said...

yes totally agree. i love when we are at the mall, store, park, walking, etc, near the house and we hear kids saying "hola elias" and i see them and i dont know them, but they know my boy. and not only the ones in his class but from other grades, its interesting and really i enjoy it so much.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is an inspiration to parents everywhere!

ChaCHA online said...

I love this! My twin daughters (2nd graders) actually go to school with Sammi. One of my daughters is autistic and has similar experiences when we play with unfamiliar children. But like you said, the kids that know her love her and take care of her and treat her like all the others. It makes me so happy to see her being a part of the the school rather that being apart from the school.

Love reading your writing. I will definitely continue following you. :)