When I was eight months pregnant we took a trip. It was a sort of last hurrah as a family of four. We booked a cheapie Tiger flight at five to midnight, drove the long hours to the city and hopped on a plane.
We enjoyed the sights that Melbourne had to offer by day and retired to cosy family homes by night (have I mentioned before how convenient it is to have relatives in interesting places?) I remember getting stuck in a turnstile at a tram stop at the Docklands. I remember huffing and puffing up the stairs at Fed square. I remember old ladies smiling sweetly at my enormous bump, then looking at my other two grubby toddlers and giving me looks that expressed condolences.
We ate, we drank, we were merry. Well, we did all those things before 7pm bedtime but we still had some fun. Looking back, I may have been a stickler for that 7pm bedtime because I was the tiredest... did I mention I was EIGHT months pregnant? Or that 'little' number three was 9 pound 3 and I am not quite 5'2"?!
On our way home, we hung around the airport and I decided to do some waddling rather than sitting (those of you who've birthed a giant baby know what I mean).
It was then I saw a beautiful sight - one that will stay with me forever*. A greying man in maybe his fifties, holding the hand of his son. His son was jumping up and down with sheer excitement. I could overhear some of their conversation and it was clear that they were queuing for hot chocolate with marshmallows. The older man looked into his son's face, smiling with the enthusiasm and joy reflected back at him. The boy was polite, and just so grateful to be out with his Dad doing something so grown up. And with PLANES nearby, no less.
But... this was no ordinary sight. The son was not a child. He was maybe twenty years old. He had Downs Syndrome. I looked at the father and I looked down at my own four year old son. One day my son would grow to resist holding my hand. One day my son would buy his own hot drink without a thought. One day my son would be bored waiting in an airport full of planes. But not that man's son. That man would get to enjoy the purity of childhood for as long as they were both able to stand side-by-side.
What a beautiful thought - having a child that needed you indefinitely. Being someone's 'Mummy' or 'Daddy' forever.
I'm not in any way trying to diminish the hardships that come with having a child with a disability. I know that life is harder for some than others depending on the needs of their child and of the resources at hand, but I just looked at that grey-haired man and KNEW he felt blessed by what some might see as a burden.
I feel I was meant to see that little vignette at the airport. God was preparing me for a world of patience and trust and love for the unique little person I was about to meet.
My own little number three. He has taken his time growing up. When I realised that something was different about him, I found it hard to put my finger on what it was. So did everyone else around me. As a baby, he was so happy, so sunny, so calm, so quiet - he barely even cried.
This is the Small Boy at around 3 hours old. He just lay there looking at
me while I lay looking back at him. It was such a lovely experience
He is so funny and determined. He is such a blessing to our family. It took time and patience and determination to trust my mothers' instinct and to keep pushing until we worked out exactly what it was that was wrong. I have been so lucky to have been able to access the help he needs to propel him on his way.
These days, he stands out less. The other kids at kindy complain, "He won't talk to us," but little by little he is reaching out and trying to fit in with them. When at a distance, you look at him as part of a group, he no longer stands out.
He's growing up! He's finding his way! His test results have moved from 'profound' communication disorder to 'moderate' and every day he unlocks new words and ideas. It's all just a grand, happy adventure to my gorgeous Small Boy.
He has taught me patience and faith in a way that nobody else could have. I've found it easier to count my blessings and forgive my own short-comings as the mother of this perfectly beautiful little boy.
Because he IS perfect. In spite of his dodgy ears (which are now repaired) and the crazy little wild thing he became while we were working him out, he is just amazing and gorgeous and beautiful. And I wouldn't trade any of it. In fact I relish the fact that I get to stretch out these toddler years a little further than most.
Here he is at 14 months. We were just starting to investigate his issues - not
responding to his name, poor gross motor etc.
And while I really believe that in ten years, he'll be as able as my other kids, I'll be OK if he needs me just that little bit more than Mr Z or Miss Piggy.
It's been a journey of growth for me. I hope it's been a journey of growth for him, too. That his struggles will make him a patient man who takes challenges in his stride. Who embraces unique people and situations with warmth and kindness.
* Incidentally, the last time I'd seen a breath taking sight was ten years previous in Brisvegas, in front of City Hall. There was clearly some sort of ball about to start. In the square were people in their finest, standing in small groups but not a word was spoken. All you could hear was the flapping of hands as people signed to one another. I desperately wanted to take out my camera and record this amazing scene but instead I chose to just take it in. One night in Brisbane out of maybe two for the year. But I was there THAT night. Things ALWAYS happen for a reason.