I kept glancing back as she tried to climb up the snow bank. The other children all climbed around her and I could tell they were beginning to become impatient with her careful step and misstep. She will often engage with other children whilst I watch her brother play hockey and I am glad that she does. In fact, I think it is good for her. Usually, we are in a heated arena where they play a sort of cat and mouse game up and down the stands. To be honest, most of the time she is neither chasing nor being chased but generally just runs as they run – she wants to be involved. She wants to be part of the fun. She wants to play. Last night was no different. All of the other hockey players’ younger siblings were playing on the snow banks at the outdoor rink behind the players’ bench, so why wouldn’t she.
She climbed and climbed and managed to get up, but could not figure out how to get down. I helped. It comes with the territory – always being there to help. She went to climb up again, this time slower and more carefully. The children waited. They climbed over her, climbed around her and I watched…ready to pounce. If any one of those children made a move to push or shove her, I would be there.
I am that mom.
You see, being the parent of a child with special needs you might think we get used to it, but the truth is, we don’t. I never get used to it. I never get used to other children bullying Ella, talking down about her or to her. I never get used to other children avoiding her or giving her the once over. It makes my heart ache to watch because all she wants to do is play. Before Down Syndrome, before special needs, she is first and foremost a little girl who needs friends just like anyone else.
I remember this past summer as even her cousins, the ones who knew her at birth made fun of her as they asked her each of their names in anticipation of what she might come up with. Cue speech delay.
“Why don’t you help her learn the names instead of make fun of her?”
I was quick to respond because I am that mom. Because I would rather assume that perhaps they don’t know the appropriate response, instead of choosing the wrong one. As a parent of a child with special needs, I can see the hurt in her eyes when she is not included. I have watched her watch the other children run away from her. I have seen tears in her eyes that communicate so much more than any words could.
These moments hurt my heart but it is moments like these that also teach me how to be a better parent and a better person. Because no matter whether a child or an adult has special needs or not, no one deserves to be treated like that. In a society that is ruled by fear-mongering and that excuses discrimination as vigilance, we have forgotten the Golden Rule.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
I teach it to my children. I talk about it with Jakob, my sensitive soul – just because they do it to you, does not make it okay to do it to them. How would you like to be treated? That is how you treat them.
Friends, let us be the change we want to see in our children. Change begins with us.
I am glad you said something to the kids. My kids remembered that moment as I asked them about it and they said they thought it was her way of having fun so that is why they encouraged it and when it looked like she was not having fun they stopped. They said they followed what Jakob was asking and his lead as they thought he would treat her the best. It was not an intent to make fun of her. So I think you hit the nail on the head when kids just sometimes need an adult to show appropriate behaviour. Sometimes good intents go ill. This was a good opportunity to stress to the kids to consider when it may not be fun anymore or how to include children and have fun while allowing them to lead their own stories their own unique way. And as you know, the cousins are a DIVERSE array of needs, differences, and stories so there are many ways it can go down…:)
Happens with my kids too…especially if there is a dyspraxic moment with other kids or an autistic sensory overload I have to model the reaction or explain with open communication. While kids can be cruel, I honestly think most of them are open to change and compassion…I have a tougher time with the adults and parents!
I thought I wasn’t much of a mamma bear but my husband died laughing when I mentioned that. He said I am in completely different ways than some moms- but I still am. So I guess upon thinking about it…I am when it comes to my children’s rights to freedom of belief, freedom of speech, freedom to be who they are while also working on becoming. I will defend what I believe makes them healthier which includes the beauty in neurodiversity and also diet choices and lifestyle choices. While I believe they also have to learn to fight their own battles and I don’t always step in- it really depends on the circumstance and the child. One of my children needs more protection than the others in certain ways, but then again, the other two I step up when it comes to physical needs or anxiety…so I guess my mamma bear is unpredictable but in a given moment and appropriate with each child. I think your mamma bear is very important in Ella’s case.
I treat others how I want to be treated but funny enough, its not often how others want to be treated. I am probably an exception to how most would want things done ect. My husband often says the opposite ” Do not do to others as you would not want done to you.” That’s easier for me…to just refrain if I know it would damage, however the flip side to that is: https://everydayaspie.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/ego-convinctions-and-the-bubble-wrap-approach/ I find I have to live my own life while letting others live theirs…and in that respect for differences is cultivated even if there is never full understanding (which I no longer expect nor always want anyway!:)