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.