Three stories. One theme.
It’s the end of year show for Howie’s preschool. We make it through the show without incident. Outside the classroom is the giant food table, where each kid brought in a snack matching a letter of the alphabet. Our eyes travel over the table, looking for something that he can eat. His corn intolerance can make these events, well, intolerable.
One of the moms who volunteers in the class comes up to us. “I bought some Italian Ices at the store for Howie. I looked everywhere for something that he could eat. There’s no corn in it at all. I wanted to make sure he had something special here.”
I had held it together pretty well during the show, but my eyes welled up a little here.
It’s Memorial Day, and we’re at our friend’s house for an afternoon BBQ. It’s about 90 degrees out, and we’ve been in and out of their pool and trampoline for hours. It’s three families spending the afternoon together – six adults and seven kids. No one bats an eye when Howie has a meltdown about the bugs and needs to sit. He’s tickled, fed and included every moment of the day. The kids all play together easily, moving from one activity to the next. When it’s time to go, Howie screams and begs for more time. My friends help me gather our stuff and we make a quick exit. Later, I e-mail them thanking them for treating Howie like Howie. I thank them for raising their kids to be tolerant and understanding, because we all know it’s not always like that. I tell them that other kids are already noticing that Howie is different, but their kids don’t see anything but a regular 5 year old boy.
Yesterday afternoon, the phone rings. It’s my friend (from the story above) and she’s calling to give me a heads up about her son’s 5th birthday party. Her oldest and my oldest are best friends. Howie and her youngest are best buds too. They are having the party at Pump It Up, a large indoor bounce house playspace. She wants to know if there’s anything she can do to make the place more “sensory friendly” for Howie. “It gets really loud in there with the music. I can’t do anything about the sound of all the blowers, but I can ask them to turn down the music if you think it would be too much.” As she’s talking to me, Howie is in the midst of a giant meltdown at my feet. He’s screaming at me to get off the phone and just help him. My eyes well up again.
Three stories. One theme. I write a lot about having a “village” – friends with kids with special needs who “get it“. They walk in my shoes every day and they understand the pain and frustration and heartache without explanation.
But the friends in each of three stories all have “typical” kids. They don’t walk in my shoes. They don’t have to understand.
But they do. The mom didn’t have to think of MY kid when she was shopping for treats for the school party. There are 17 other kids in that class, including her own, yet she was concerned about my kid having something to eat. My friends could have made snide remarks about my son at the BBQ, but instead they went out of their way to help us feel comfortable at their house. My friend didn’t have to think about MY son at all when planning her kid’s birthday party. But she was willing to make accommodations for him so that he could enjoy the celebration.
They aren’t put off by the labels that surround my kid. They just see my kid.
And for that, they are part of my village too.
“Oh, the more we get together,
Oh, the more we get together,
The happier we’ll be.
For your friends are my friends,
And my friends are your friends.
Oh, the more we get together,
The happier we’ll be! ” – The More We Get Together (children’s song)