The other day, I picked up my kids from the sitter as I usually do on Friday's. I was late and rushing. I walked in and my sitter was getting ready to leave. I offered to stay so she could make a friend's birthday party. While I was waiting for another Mom to arrive, I interacted with one of the kids I had not really seen before. He was standing, playing and then I picked him up to put his shoes on.
He was heavy, likely weighing more than Eden, my 4 year old. He was trying to talk and I was attemping to understand him. His mother arrived and we exchanged pleasantries.
Then I asked her...
"When is his birthday?" I said with intrigue.
"August....(something)" she said.
'So will he be 2 or 3?" I questioned.
She looked at me a little odd.
"He will be 2," she said, then continued, "how old is your son?"
I was not sure I wanted to answer.
"He just turned 2 last week," I responded.
The look I received back told a whole story in a matter of seconds: confusion, pity, questioning, empathy...
I was affected. Maybe I read into it too much, but still. This child was obviously leaps and bounds ahead of Wyatt, and that is my reality. I don't see it often because I'm so focused on what Wyatt can do versus what he can't or isn't. I felt slapped in the face with Wyatt's delays.
On top of that, I noticed that she did not ask about Eden. This is a scenario with which I am often faced.
We Mom's like to ask how old other kids are. But with Wyatt, and other kids like him with Down syndrome, it can be a question that is tough. People seem to ask about our cuties, likely with great intent on paying attention to, and offering compliments to our kids with special needs, in an attempt to graciously acknowledge our kids. This is great, but it can also leave us feeling like our "typical" kids are ignored. And it can bring up a whole host of other feelings.
I don't know why this is such a sticking point. Maybe that question is a reminder that our kids are "unique" or maybe it is a reminder that our kids are behind. Especially for me, since most people guess that Wyatt is a full year younger than he actually is. Don't get me wrong...I'm completely guilty of this ageist mis-fire. Once I asked a Mom if her son was 3. He was actually 6. (Open mouth, insert foot.)
I spent much of the ride home that Friday justifying Wyatt's accomplishments, making a mental list off all the things Wyatt could do and the other kid couldn't. I bet that kid can't sign. I bet that kid can't focus in therapy like Wyatt can. I bet that kids doesn't eat like Wyatt or is as well behaved as Wyatt. I bet that kid is...blah, blah, blah...
Once home, we sat down to a quick $5 pizza dinner and I felt compelled to address what it means to be small. A few weeks ago at church, they taught Eden about David and Goliath. I asked Eden if she remembered the story. With prompting, she vaguely recalled the story and I filled in the gaps.
"Eden, you and Wyatt are probably always going to be smaller than others in your class, " I told her. "Mommy was almost always the smallest. But you know what? Being small doesn't mean you are not strong," I told her.
I don't know why I felt the need to address this directly that day, or why I explained it to Eden. Looking at the reality of Wyatt's delays sometimes hits hard, with me likely over-exaggerating his actual delays. I felt like I not only needed to defend Wyatt's delays and small stature, but I also related it to Eden. My kids are only about 10 pounds apart, with Eden currently weighing about 32 pounds at 4 1/2 years and Wyatt maybe kissing 22 pounds at 2 years.
But after all my soul searching, I justified it: my kids are small. But they are small...and mighty!And who cares what age others think they are!?! They are doing just fine - no matter their size.
The age question can be a double edged sword. Asking can evoke emotion, but ignoring the "normal" Mom question can seem dismissing. But it doesn't have to be that way.
The next time you see a kid with special needs, feel free to oooh and aaaah over their cutness. But also, do us a favor - do the same for our other children...and don't try and guess their age, just ask how old they are. And when we answer you, please respond with something more positive than a confused or sympathetic look. Like maybe try, "oh he is such a big boy! And on top of that, your daughter is beautiful!"
That would be nice, and appreciated.
Here are a few random photos of my Small and Mighties:
|Eden and Wyatt watching Backyardigans on the iPad|
|Sleepy Wyatt and Eden on Daddy's lap for movie night|
|My beautiful, petite Eden|
|Wyatt's baptism...let's face it, we are not going to ever have giant kids...|
|My handsome little man getting his hair cut|