I wrote this on Mother’s Day and don’t know why I didn’t post it. Must be more of that sleep-deprived brain fog…
Anyway, this is for all the moms I’ve met in this crazy blogging world. You are inspiring. Thanks for letting me in “the club.”
I thought of you all today as I was at the park with my family. I wondered if you were having a good day with your respective families —creating memories to tuck away in the recesses of your hearts or, perhaps, to share with your blogging friends.
As I watched Nik play on the toddler slide with great, enthusiastic abandon, I thought of you and felt your invisible presence with me. I noticed some mothers with older kids watching Nik as he scooted and climbed and crawled in his little crooked hermit crab way that he does without really using his left knee on the ground. I watched them watching him as he babbled and hummed his joyful little tunes as he played. At first, I felt defensive. Protective. I wanted to yell at them to stop staring and to leave my boy alone. I thought of you all there with me and felt your protective circle around us — me, Nik, Niksdad— as we reveled in the sunshine.
One of you must have whispered something in my ear —a suggestion that, perhaps, they weren’t watching and thinking judgmental thoughts about my differently-abled child. Perhaps they were like the mother at the swings which Vicki Forman so eloquently writes about. Wondering but afraid to ask. Wanting to understand but uncomfortable about intruding.
I let go of my defensiveness and tuned them out.
Instead, I focused on watching my little boy blossom in the sun like a flower kept dormant in the ground for too many seasons. Through all the winters of isolating Nik from exposure to illness —especially from other kids — and the long months spent with visiting home therapists, pushing pulling, poking, cajoling, encouraging Nik. To bear weight on his hands, to sit at the age of two, to pull to stand at 2 ½. Through it all, the gut-level knowledge that it would, one day in the future, lead to this moment today.
I watched my boy fearlessly climb the play structure’s steps with his awkward gate until he was “king of the mountain” at the topmost level. The pure joy radiating from his pores as he clambered down to the short, broad slope of the slide warmed my heart. As I reached out my hands to help Nik slide down, he giggled and catapulted himself down the incline without as much as a brush against my fingertips. Anxiously, I watched as Nik struggled to right himself —he cannot stand on his own yet. If desire and determination could make a thing so, Nik would jump and run and dance in the wind. I see it in his eyes, in the set of his jaw as he struggles to rise. His sense of triumph is evident in his laugh as he manages to turn himself around so he can pull himself up using Daddy’s pant leg.
Nik has figured out how to get himself up and down the structure all by himself. Climb, climb, scamper, slide. Roll over, push up, cruise to the right or crawl to the left. One way takes him around the outside while the other takes him under the steps. I worry when he goes underneath because he is little and some of the other kids are so much bigger than he is.
Two boys, who must be about ten, are playing at soldiers or spies; they are hunkered down on their bellies and sneaking through the openings under the slide. They must sense something in Nik that causes them to feel protective. I watch in awe as, wordlessly, they stop to yield the right of way to my little dynamo. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly. I watch the leader’s face each time they approach Nik, who is happily oblivious to their presence and the fact that they could just have easily run him over. I wonder, just for a moment, if the bigger boy knows that Nik is more vulnerable.
Is this what it will always be like as Nik’s mother? The tremendous awe and pride I feel as I watch my child grow and change intermingled with the sadness that he no longer needs me to do certain things, and the fear that others will not see how vulnerable he is. Or worse, that they will and will take advantage of him or hurt him in some irreparable way?
Today, though, I silently smile and share my joy —my tremendous pride —with you all. I know that you share my joy as I have surely felt the swell of pride, and often the sting of tears (both of joy and indignation) as I read about your children’s triumphs and struggles. Your experiences so often mirror mine or paint vivid pictures of the possibilities which may await our family. The riches of raising our special child, of learning to love deeper with each passing day, of learning to stand strong in the face of ignorance, fear, frustration, and exhaustion. Learning to appreciate each individual moment as it happens and being able to look back at the intricate and inspiring tapestry being woven.
Thank you, my new-found friends for the gifts you bring to my life. You make me a better mother and a richer human being for the depths of emotion I allow myself to tap into and the fears I am learning to conquer.
Troubles shared are troubles halved but joys shared are doubled. Today, I feel doubly blessed.