Our Little Corner of the World

Andrew started school last week; the youngest of four with only 2 years of high school left. I’ve started thinking about transitions and the 18 plus program in our district and thinking about how that will feel. He will just be happy to be able to continue going to the campus and have activities and some limited social interactions (his choice). He will come home telling me that he had a great day. He can’t explicitly tell me what he did, but we have been in this district for 18 years and his teachers and staff usually snap photos of him here and there and send them to me with an update about how he is doing.

Andrew’s First Day of Junior Year

The impending transition got me thinking about all the milestones. The ones we gratefully and thankfully achieved, like talking, reading, writing, hugging, saying prayers and recognizing people and greeting them when met.

All of this pondering reminded me of a school event a few years back. When Andrew was in Middle School, inevitably the first fall dance was scheduled. Andrew did attend a dance or two, but missed this first one, due to a surgery recovery…I don’t even remember what surgery, weird.

I do remember all of the posts on Facebook of all his classmates. The girls were all dressed in cute dresses with extra hair, nail polish and make up. Most of the boys wore collared shirts and nice shorts or khakis. They too had their hair combed and styled. They were all so precious, young, and excited to be attending their first dance.

I was at home, not dropping kids off at the social event for the first time in 13 years (my older three all participated in various aspects of middle school frivolity). I eagerly awaited all of the pictures that proud Mamas were posting and delighting in watching their babies enjoy this pre-teen right of passage. I knew all these kiddos, their parents, older siblings and even lots of their grandparents. I was happy for their happiness. I too, felt a sense of pride in this moment in time. I am part of this village after all, but also on the outskirts much of the time as well.

But there was also a twinge. A pang of something, not pain, not sadness but a benign combination of emotions better tucked away.

Moments later, I got a text from one of the moms. I had noticed that we had both just liked the same Facebook post so she was clearly home scrolling through social media herself and knew that I was too. She has a son the same age as Andrew who was in several of the posts. Her text read, “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.” And a heart.

The latent grief I was feeling was simultaneously sparked and soothed. It didn’t necessarily make me feel better. In fact it almost gave me permission to give in to these unwelcome emotions of bereavement. I chose to feel appreciated and noticed. Andrew and I were not left behind after all. We were still part of the wheel and in the picture. Maybe we would miss this milestone, but it helped to know that it mattered to someone other than me.

In Andrew’s case, he had zero interest in going to dances – too loud, too dark while at the same time too bright. His interpersonal relationships, while lively, are fairly one sided and he tires of people easily. He likes for his people to be in the vicinity, while doing his own thing. So, no reason to be upset on his behalf.

I was lucky to have experienced all those moments with my other children. So I know what it felt like. Often bittersweet, sometimes terrifying, often full of drama, tears, laughter. I was suddenly relieved. I had passed the torch on to younger parents with their own hardships of raising teenagers. It felt good. Andrew was tucked into bed, and I felt peace.

It’s difficult to explain the varying degrees of emotion that parents of special needs children are faced with. We are some of the toughest people on the planet. Our children are warrior-artists, and sometimes the most innocent of moments capture our attention in such a profound manner that we blink and catch a glimpse of ourselves through misty eyes in a painting that was never commissioned. The grounding reality is that I wouldn’t change it if I could. Andrew is happy, safe, loved, and he lights up our little corner of the world.

12 thoughts on “Our Little Corner of the World”

  1. I love reading your perspective on the sense of loss you started with and how a small act of noticing served multiple purposes for you. You were able to share how you work through a spectrum of emotions in just a few words, and for just this one example of what you do daily! You, too, are a warrior-artist! Thank you for this story.

  2. You are such a bright light & example to be joyful for others looking at the bright side. So many people can’t be happy for others when they are hurting. You are also honest about your sadness (grief). I know I personally have felt self-pity when my child & I have had similar experiences. It’s a great reminder to look at the bright side but also ok to acknowledge where your are emotionally so you can move beyond getting stuck! I love your inspirational message! Christy D

  3. “through misty eyes in a painting that was never commissioned.”
    How well stated. Thank you for your perspective, experience and honesty.
    Many of us share your “misty eyes” while we revel in the beauty of life which Andrew radiates.

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