by: Stacey Cheney
Consider, for a moment, a story.
The other night, we were at a school event with our boys. As we left, a child we didn’t know called out to our older son, M. M ran over to him, and their conversation went something like this:
Other child: Hey, M!
M: That was a good movie, huh?
Other child: Yeah, it was.
M: I’ve seen it before.
Other child: Yeah, me, too.
As the boys talked, I fell into step with my husband, behind them.
We both fell silent.
I knew exactly what my husband was doing. I was doing it, too. Listening. Intently. Hanging on every word.
At this point, I should explain that I understand most people would label this a fairly unremarkable conversation. In a Marie Kondo situation, it would, no doubt, land in the discard pile. That is to say, for most people, it’s not sparking any joy.
Unless, of course:
you’ve seen your child struggle to connect with their peers because their language disorder was a barrier and broke their confidence
you’ve watched your child finally build the confidence to talk to those peers, only to have them walk away mid-sentence, not having the patience that was sometimes required to understand your child
you’ve watched your child struggle to have appropriate, on-topic conversations because their brain was always running so fast that when they spoke, they did so mid-thought, resulting in conversations that seemed random and awkward
If those things were true? Watching your child connect with a peer in such an average way - even for 20 seconds - would be one of the highlights of your night. It would be something you’d praise your child for, and it would be something you and your husband would stay up that night talking about. And it would spark joy. Immense joy.
And that’s the thing about parenting kiddos with special needs. Is it hard? Abso-fricking-lutely. It’s fraught with stress and worry and missed milestones and then more stress and worry about those missed milestones. I’m not trying to sugarcoat things. But despite all that - or perhaps because of it - I find that sometimes I’m able to feel a little deeper when it comes to small moments like this.
Because it’s important to remember that there will always be small moments. They’re everywhere. Maybe it’s an unremarkable conversation, or perhaps a new word. Or maybe it’s just a word, period. Or a sound. It looks different for everyone, but it’s there - the capacity to find deep joy in seemingly insignificant moments.
And make no mistake - those small moments that happen in our special needs worlds? They happen in everyone else’s, too. I just like to think that maybe our kiddos have taught us to notice them a little bit more. And for that, I feel pretty lucky.
Stacey Cheney is the co-founder of The Guide Project Inc., an organization dedicated to finding and creating opportunities for inclusion for people with disabilities and their families. To learn more about their mission, including how to get involved in their upcoming event featuring two movies about disability inclusion, visit www.guideeachother.org.