Special Needs Mom: Why I let my daughter splash in the rain

By Suzanne Perryman

For Special Needs Mom

Published: Monday, Oct. 7 2013 8:50 p.m. MDT

Like any other mom, I rush sometimes, too. It was raining last week when I arrived at Zoe’s school, and as I helped her out of her wheelchair, she placed one foot squarely in the closest puddle and followed with the other splashing in the rainwater. As I continued to lift her into the car, very softly she exclaimed, “That was fun ...” and instead of reaching for her seat belt as I had planned, in reverse I helped her back out of the car, until we stood facing each other, our feet planted in the same puddle, and with my hands on her shoulders steadying her balance, I told my girl to splash. Splash, as long as you want. Get as wet as you want, and as I watched her eyes shine and her smile spread, I was soon smiling and splashing, too.

This patience, this perspective, even my point of view didn’t come naturally. It has grown with time, with each new diagnosis, with setbacks and with each new achievement. This place I am in can’t even be taught or even learned through observation, as I once believed.

Yesterday, on our way to school I chatted casually with Zoe’s big sister Olivia, as we sat in the car waiting at the neighborhood light. There is a school bus stop at that corner, and the car in front of us was lingering, holding up the cars behind. “Ughhh,” Olivia complained grumpily. “Why can’t the kid just jump out and go already.”

Slowly, the passenger car door opened and a teen emerged, as he warily eased out of the car, finally standing, we could see he was wearing over-sized glasses and carrying a long, white-tipped cane. Olivia looked at me, slumping in her seat, as the harsh, powerful meaning of her words sunk in.

I watched Olivia in that moment, her eyes closed as she murmured an apology to herself. I thought about the life Olivia lives as Zoe’s big sister. How she helps to care for Zoe, often getting her a cup of milk or a snack, helping Zoe walk across her bedroom or how she often brings Zoe her favorite toy or her iPad.

This big sister, who every day see’s muscle weakness, physical challenges, impaired vision ... and who lives it, too ... and for a moment in her rush to hurry, hurry, hurry forgot that sometimes things are not as they seem.

I reached for Olivia’s hand, saying softly, "It has taken me over 10 years, 10 years of mothering Zoe, to open my eyes and understand there is more to every person than what we can see, to learn to slow down and be patient.”

Together, Olivia and I watched the teen slowly step up onto the last curb and walk over to a group of teens. I looked at Olivia and she looked at me, and I know we were both thinking about Zoe. She saw her sister, in that teen, in that moment. She thought about how her own words, just spoken, betrayed what she thought she already understood.

And like that young child running fast on the grass, I thought of Zoe, and how I stopped rushing that afternoon in the rain, how my hands steadied her shoulders and the way Zoe stood, splashing, up and down in the puddles and how in the end, we were wet and muddy. And I am grateful that we took the time ... because she could.

As I thought of those other mothers that would give anything, to help their child out of their wheelchair, for just a moment to splash in the rain.

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