Yesterday evening the boys, Bryan and I all went to the park for Zachary's soccer practice. While Bryan watched Zachary run around with his team in the grass, I took the other boys over to the playground area.
Not too long after we explored some of the slides, Joshua decided he wanted to swing. As we approached the swing set, I noticed a teenage girl on one of the swings. Her mom was on a bench right behind us.
It was apparent to me that the girl had something "wrong" with her neurologically, although I could not place what it was specifically, nor was that important. As I loaded Joshua into one of the baby swings, I noticed how peaceful the girl looked as she gazed into the distance, probably admiring something simple like the way the breeze was blowing the leaves; something many of us are generally too busy to bother enjoying. She knew how to pump her legs, but after a while her mother came over to push her, too. She looked so happy then, with a wide grin on her face. I tried not to stare, fearing her mother would assume I was judging, when in fact, I was admiring how profoundly beautiful the girl was... How beautiful they both were, this mother-daughter team.
Based on my kids' mild needs, I know that these moments to just relax in time are probably few and far between. The days are probably riddled with worry, work, therapies, doctors and meetings at school. I know that there was a time that this mom was told by a medical professional that something was wrong with her daughter. I know that if I had asked her, she would have been able to tell me exactly where she was when she heard that news, and every detail of that day. I like to think that maybe things have turned out better than she originally thought... that even though her daughter is challenged, and appeared to even be non-verbal, there are still so many moments of joy and wonder and limitless love.
As I pulled Joshua from the swing, I realized that perhaps, to this mother's trained eye, she may be able to tell that something is different in my child, too. If she looked closely, she may have seen a similar "wise old owl" look on his face, or she may have noticed how his hands were clenched when he walked, or that he has an awkward gait. Likewise, she could have looked across the playground to Ben and seen him spinning and spinning on a little seat with no regard to anyone around him, and wondered. But, maybe they just looked like typical kids to her, too.
I think what I gained is another reminder that we all are different in our own ways, and that life with special needs may have difficult lows, but that far too often the silver linings are missed. There isn't a requirement to go at the same pace as everyone else, and there isn't a need to muse about what might have been. Sometimes you can swing at the park at sunset with a smile on your face, rejoice in the fact that that is enough.