It’s the little things that matter.
I know everyone says that but I really, truly do believe it. Maybe I have a low bar, but I choose to think little things make the biggest difference.
Allow me to ‘splain.
So, I have three kids. One has challenges, as we all do, but hers come with actual, bonafide labels. Among them is the inability to interpret social cues, those things that are so instinctive and automatic for many of us aren’t for her. At all. When you get to high school, that shortcoming is a hugecoming — even though, if you ask me — all teenagers seem to be on pace to looking like they have sort of behavioral disorder because they’re so used to staring and interacting with little cell phone screens that their ability to make eye contact and conversation with actual humans is seriously impaired.
When you have a special needs kid, you harden your heart. You have to. To not would mean dying inside every day when your kid struggles or is hurt by intolerance. Something bad happens? You sympathize but then you encourage toughness. Shake it off. That kid’s the turd, not you. Just move on.
Most fellow students are pretty patient, even nice, although occasionally I’ll get a text message in the middle of the day about someone saying something hurtful. A few kids are downright awful. Like the boy — heaven help him if I ever track him down — whom my kid had a minor crush on and she was gutsy enough to admit it to him. In a text. He texted back that he liked her, but as a friend.
OK, that’s fair. And honest.
Then, after some time passed, came the second text.
“Actually, I do like you.”
My heart dropped because while I do like to think the best of people, I am quite familiar with teenage boys. Sure enough, his next bubble of text was “Can u send nude pix.”
It’s probably not fair to deem someone who’s not yet a fully formed person a jackass, but I’m going to do it anyway. Jackass.
So those are the people in the world you worry about and are always on the lookout for — along with the Nigerian princes who email their sad-luck stories. So many jerks out there who prey on the defenseless.
But then, then, you come across people like the young woman at the doughnut shop who waited on my daughter one morning and noticed her confusion and nervousness when she haltingly placed her order. When the kid was out of earshot, the young woman leaned in and confided that she suffered from anxiety. It was pretty bad when she was a kid, she said, but now she had it under control.
“So, don’t worry,” she said. “It’ll get better.”
I nearly cried then, I do cry now. So much for the tough heart.
Then, there was the young woman, waiting outside the school office with my daughter. They both smiled when I drove up.
My child was practically vibrating as she ran up to the car, saying her friend — everyone is a friend — had something she wanted to ask me.
“Is it OK if we go get pizza after school Wednesday?” the girl sweetly asked. “My grandma can drive us.”
I needed a pacemaker at that very moment because my heart skipped about 10 beats.
“I love that she includes me and asks me to do things,” my kiddo said, as she slid into the passenger side.
This is a young girl who’s been asked to maybe two birthday parties in the past six years. No one invites her to hang out after school or sleep over or go to dances or football games. So going to grab a slice after school might seem like a little thing, but it’s not. It’s pretty epic.
And today, this girl turns 16. I’m not going to say sweet 16 because I am also quite familiar with teenage girls. I even was one. Once. A looooooong time ago. They’re messy (literally and figuratively), complicated, wonderful creatures and just like someone wouldn’t dare face down a rampaging elephant without a tranquilizer gun, no parent who comes in daily contact with a 16-year-old girl should be without a tranquilizer gun — or at the very least, some protective armor. Their sharp barbs sting like no other. Now, multiply that times 100 when you’re talking about a special needs teen. They’re tougher than the norm. Hard to believe but true.