Yesterday we went to an event at our local exhibition grounds. The carnival was closed to the public for 2 hours and by invitation only, "special" kids under the age of 10 got to come out and play.
There was a wide variety of needs represented, from tiny children with crumpled bodies confined to wheel chairs, to cheerful Down's kids beaming at everyone they passed, to kids who looked so normal you couldn't tell at a glance whether they were the "special" ones in their family or a tag along sibling. The excitement in the air was palpable.
There was a wide variety of parenting styles represented as well. From the awe inspiring super parents gently coaxing their two autistic sons to try out a ride, and then having to even more gently coax them off it again, to the young couple in line at the end of the day, tired, frustrated, embarrassed yelling at their rambunctious brood so vehemently that they upset my kids too. But everyone was so grateful. I heard many, many heart felt thank you's from the parents to the volunteer workers and gave many of my own.
The kids got to ride the kiddie rides, have a hot dog lunch and were each given stuffed animals and cotton candy. All for free. Best of all they turned off all the music on the rides and in the midway, so that combined with the limited numbers in attendance, it would be a much quieter less sensory assaultive experience for the kids.
How did I feel about being in attendance? About my two beautiful boys being counted in that "special" group? Humbled. Our daily struggles were put in sharper perspective. Our boys are ambulatory and cognitively on par or even advanced for their age. They are also polite, curious, quiet, nice looking little fellas...this makes it easier. We are very lucky.
But I also felt sobered. Our daily struggles were put in sharper perspective both ways. My guys had a lot of trouble with the noise and wore headphones almost all afternoon, even with the music off. They needed coaching around the other children (i.e. how to deal with someone looking at you or accidentally bumping you without exploding). They needed help navigating how to get on and off some of the rides (motor skills, lack of coordination). They were visibly anxious and a little agitated at several points. In other words they fit in quite well at a special afternoon for special kids...there is simply no denying that.
We had a great time...better than great. We laughed. We felt glad and lucky and grateful. We saw our unique and wonderful children and who we are as parents in sharp relief...and liked what we saw.
It was achingly sweet just to see "special" kids being treated as truly important, worthwhile human beings for a day. To see their lives, their struggles, their value honoured with an afternoon of fun, just for them. As E said, "it's good to know that more people care about special kids."
11 hours ago