While at physical therapy with Cara on Friday, I saw a little boy, with the use of a walker, take his first steps. He must have been around 3 to 4. His mother had her hands over her mouth and her tears flowed silently. For a few moments, I sat Cara on my lap and together we watched the boy slowly move his walker forward. He made sounds that didn’t resemble words, his hands grasped the walker in an awkward way and his steps were slow. It was a beautiful sight. His face and voice filled the entire space with joy. I squeezed Cara and let myself fill with hope. On our way out, I couldn’t help but put my hand on the mother’s shoulder but a large lump in my throat prevented words and all I could manage was a smile. She patted my hand and nodded in understanding and appreciation. My tears broke through the moment I shut my car door. There is a powerful connection between parents of special needs children that transcends all differences and divisions. I don’t know this boy or this family, but I was so proud of him. She has never met me, but she knew what I wanted to say. I know that this mother and I see a beauty that many are oblivious of. We are some of the lucky ones.
The world is full of “retard” jokes, people laugh at those they feel are lesser than and many selfishly navigate the world with little to no awareness of people around them. When I witness this, initially I am angry, but at the end of the day I feel lucky to have had my eyes opened and heart softened. I feel lucky that I see beauty in a special needs/differently-abled child or adult. I feel lucky that I feel hope and pride when I see a special needs child take his first steps. I feel lucky that I see the awkwardness of those steps as more beautiful than the grace of a ballerina. More powerful than an Olympic sprinter.
A couple of weeks ago I took Natalie with me to Cara’s appointment with her neurologist. Sitting in front of us in the waiting room was an older girl with special needs. She wore a bib to catch her drool, her hands curled closed, she kept turning around gesturing at Cara and saying, “baby! baby! baby!” in that stereotypical voice we all made fun of (and some still do). When the girl left the waiting room to go to her appointment, Natalie looked up at me and said “mommy, that girl was really nice.” My eyes filled with tears of pride, I just hugged her and said “yes, she was a really nice girl.” I feel lucky that my eldest daughter saw this girl as just nice and nothing else.
Being a parent of a special needs child is very hard. It is a lifelong roller coaster of constant highs and lows. I have never felt so sad, happy, hurt, angry, hopeful and hopeless as I have in the past 2 years. Most nights I go to bed exhausted. I can’t remember who I was before I had Cara and my world is not the same place. But, I am lucky. I am lucky to be the mother of a special needs child. I am lucky because there is beauty in this world that only someone who loves a special needs child can see. We, as parents of special needs children, are lucky because our children have made this world a special place for us.