So who else has the Toy Story theme stuck in their head?
Raising children you always wonder how you will teach them about the world. The ins, the outs, goods, bads, dangers, wonders. Sometimes life turns the table and says *you* must teach the world about *him*. So teach I do.
A little over a year ago, shortly after our diagnosis, still reeling, I found myself in a position of needing new daytime care for my kids. I work a full time job at a software company and, until this point, had a wonderful in home care provider. She took care of both my kids, took Will to therapy, did therapy with him, cried with me, laughed with me. Jen was truly a part of our family. She remains a part still, always will. She chose a new adventure in life which meant I needed to find a replacement. Those who know me know how arduous this task truly was. Trusting someone with my kids, ha, in the few weeks I had? Not likely. Another friend contacted me and asked if I wanted her to ask her friend if she would take the kids. I knew if she trusted this woman with her kids, I would be ok too (she was tougher than me believe it or not!!). I spoke with M on the phone and had no choice but to go with my gut that this was good. Will had a rough time adjusting, as always, but he found his way. I didn't know at the time that a friendship that I think will transcend time would be formed.
We always say children are awful, say hurtful things, pick on other kids. This shift in my reality has shown me quite the opposite. Children are honest, yes, they are truthful but normally not intentionally hurtful in their honesty. They look, they wonder, but they usually ask. And I have yet to come across a child who didn't instantly become loving and protective of my son. They all call him "the baby", even the littlest of them. They ask why he has those things on his legs, why does he sit in the chair that moves, why doesn't he talk, why does he crawl and moan, why does he drool, why doesn't he walk. And I answer every question. Every single one. They usually are satisfied once they get all their questions out, pat Will on the head and go on their way. As we pass them in life, at the pool, the library, the grocery store, they get all excited and exclaim "MOM there is baby Will I told you about!" and go on with all they know about this sweet boy.
Prior to my own child, I always worked with special needs kids. Pretty much since I can remember. I was conscious of the kids in the perimeter of my life and the way others treated them. The way some children stare at a profoundly physically challenged individual in a store, or the snide comments people who don't know make. I have, on more than one occasion, put people in their place for crossing the line between acceptable and ridiculous.
Prior to my child, a toddler having a meltdown in a public venue was enough to make my skin crawl. Thoughts of "oh my god, not my kid ever, take that kid home" ran through my head. What kind of parent allowed a child to act like that??
Prior to my child, I was never comfortable actually asking the questions I had about children who were visibly challenged. I always felt I was crossing a line and uncomfortable doing so.
Here is what I have learned - there is so so much we can all learn from the innocent purity of our children. While at this new sitter, Will met Cole. Cole is a fully functioning (and by fully I mean FULLY) precocious 4 year old who loves to bring a smile and a giggle, and usually succeeds. And he loves my boy. These two boys who have never had a conversation like my daughter and her friends, who really can't play like a 3 and 4 year old boy should play, have this undeniable bond. If Will is upset, Cole is upset. If Will gets hurt on his wheelchair, Cole worries he will do it again. Oh and all the stuff Cole does that gets him in trouble? Yeah, he only does it because Will tells him to. I knew this little sneakster was talking when none of us were around.
But more than that, this relationship has renewed my faith in the fact that there are people so good in this world they trump the three that aren't. You see, it isn't the children who I worry about my son encountering without his mama bear or sister bear by his side - it is sadly the adults. The stares when he is in his wheelchair, the comments I have received parking in the handicapped spots, the glares at his AFOs (ankle foot orthotics) do not come from the littles, no, sadly they come from *my* peers. Those who know me outside this little piece of my mind know I nearly got into an altercation at the city pool last summer when Will was testing a wheelchair. I seriously can't even tell you the whole story without my blood pressure going up. Adults tripping over lawn chairs staring, literally almost turning to walk backwards. Blatant. Not just my sensitivity and, yes, I am sensitive to that. What parent wouldn't be. I was going to make a sign for his chair that said "YES I AM IN THIS BECAUSE MY LEGS DON'T WALK." I didn't but it was tempting. When he stims in a store (shakes his head side to side voraciously or flaps his arms like a baby bird - reactions to overtired or overstimulated), the children look but the adults LOOK. So my little voice in your head - ask if you are curious. Don't assume the child melting down is a brat, or the child stimming is unable to act right. Trust me, us parents would rather you ask.
The bond between Will and Cole is a breath of fresh air and speaks volumes to the size of this little boy's heart, but it speaks even more to the quality of his parents and the way they raise all their boys. Cole is the middle of 3 dark haired handsome boys, and his older brother is just as amazing as Cole. I've no doubt the youngest will be too. And even though Cole may not like sharing his wrestling guys with Will, I know if anyone crosses the line and Cole is there, he will straighten them out. If my boy falls and can't get up, I know Cole will extend a hand. I know Will's school days will be easier on me for the friendship he has found in Cole.
And for that I am grateful everyday.