Sometimes, as a parent of a child with needs (or two), it is hard to look at other people's children; how capable and related they seem in the world, and how easy some things are for them. They seem to breeze through those everyday social interactions which are so difficult for my children.
Now don't get me wrong. I don't resent other parents or their typical children. I got over that long ago. I have long learned the only children I should compare my own against was themselves in the past. Looking back as where my children were 6 months, 12 months or 3 years ago, against where they are now, I can see how much progress they have made and how much they have grown and progressed. I can look back even farther and remember when I was told my son may never talk or go to regular school, and I am blown away by how far he has come. So I don't begrudge my friends their typical children. I learned as time goes on, that most of my friends have some kind of struggle or concerns about their typical children. Parenting isn't easy. Period.
My son recently discovered a new love: The double chocolatey-chip Frappuccino at Starbucks. Man, It is great to have a new "something' to be used as a behavior reward. Even he can max out on Pokemon and Bakugan cards and figurines. I know I maxed out on them years ago.
So today, Mother's day: Himself took our daughter out on a 'secret mission', and Joe and I were left to our own devices. That kid is no fool. He knows his mom loves coffee Frappuccino just as much as he like his chocolatey chip one. So Starbucks was casually mentioned in that way he has, looking at the ceiling, with one elbow aloft, (you know, casual...) and I agreed, -on condition that he order his own drink.
I'm a stinker. I freely admit it.
We practiced before we left the house, and again in the Starbucks parking lot. We role-played, with me being a barista and asking questions which might throw him like "With whip or no whip?" and he answered fine.
We waited in line and he was nervous. He jiggled and danced and flapped, but he was smiling and ready. Then his turn came. I kind of froze, trying to act casual. The barista was only half-listening to him, Sharpie at the ready, not making eye contact. I am not sure it this helped or not. He stuttered a little bit, but then he took a breath an said it perfectly: "A tall chocolatey-chip Frappuchino with no whipped cream" I had to prompt him to say please, but hey! That hadn't been in the script to begin with. The Gods were watching us, and no-one messed up his order (our local Starbucks people are very nice, but not perfect). We walked out of the store with our drinks, both with huge shit-eating grins on our faces. We both knew he had done well and we celebrated with a grin and a hip bump, Joe walking out about an inch taller than when he had walked in.
And in that moment I felt kind of sorry for the parents of other children. Their kids seem to just learn these casual interactions, they don't need to be taught or coached. A trip to Starbucks for them is probably a casual thing -nothing to think twice about. On the other hand, I knew that I would always remember this Mother's day when Joe ordered his first Starbucks Frap. And in that moment, I caught myself feeling sad for typical parents. I stopped myself and asked myself why would that would be? And then it hit me:
Typical parents don't celebrate these little successes the way we do. They just sort of expect little successes and may be disappointed when they don't happen automatically. Special needs parent recognize and celebrate all these little victories. We recognise each achievement for what it is. Typical parents celebrate the big victories, but not the little ones. Because of this, they have far fewer celebrations in their kids' lives than we do.
And I felt a little sad for them. And for their kids.