Last weekend, we were at a park, and for the first time ever, my girl was moving herself around the play structure independently. Yes, it was by butt scootching, but it was . . . independent mobility. And, as I watched her, my heart felt so, so full. (It was a weekend of many, many amazing moments and there's more on that to come).
In that moment, she was just another three-year-old little girl, excited to be at the playground, moving as fast as she could toward her next thrill. As I watched her move, and watched her go down the slides all.by.herself, I thought, "This day is all about the cans. Look how far we've come!" I was, of course, completely aware that butt scootching isn't the "typical" way of getting around on a play structure, but in that moment, it didn't matter. I was soaring. She was doing it.
Then, we made our way over to a part of the play structure where two other little girls were playing, and an older girl asked me, "can she walk?" I took a breath, paused, and answered, "not by herself yet," and she said, "well how old is she?" and I said, "she's three." As a mom to a kiddo with special needs, I KNOW these questions will come, and everytime, I have a choice ... let it stop me in my tracks, or choose to make it a teachable moment. I could have explained how Sam's body just works a little differently (as I have before to an inquisitive little guy at the pool, who immediately said, "oh okay," and went right back to playing with Sam, though with a different gentleness than he had previously, leaving an impression on my heart forever), but I didn't feel like going into it. So, I gave her my simplest, shortest answers in a "just leave us alone" tone, and we kept playing.
And suddenly, I knew that that other little girl had just seen the differences. She'd seen the things Sam did differently, and not the ways they were the same. That, just like other three-year-olds, Sam was ecstatic to be at the playground, loved the slides, wanted to be near the other kids, giggled at her dada's silly jokes, squealed with glee as she went high in the swings and fast down the slide. Just like other kids.
But that wasn't what the other girl had seen.
And tonight, again, as I helped my girl figure out how to push her baby doll in a toy stroller while moving in her gait trainer, I was struck by the "cans." The things that make her just like other kids. And when I asked to take a picture and she made her best silly face, my heart soared because again . . . she's the same.
But yet, I wondered how another, outside observer would see it. Would they just see the big wheels? Would they just see the bulky black gait trainer?
Helping my girl navigate this world in her way, different as it may be, and helping others see the way she is just like them, helping her show the world who she is . . . the ways that she is the same . . . feels like a tall order sometimes, but as I watched her tonight, I felt so hopeful, optimistic, and so, so happy. The possibilities are endless.