Everybody needs one. Individuals as well as families rely, at least in part, on the support of others. We feel very fortunate to have family and friends in our community that we socialize with regularly, can call on if we need a hand with a project, or even to watch our daughter Virginia if needed. As of recent we can add Kimberly to that list as well.
For various reasons, when we began our journey after Kimberly was born, the population of our village shrank. This was not due to the insensitivities of others but more so to our lack of communication, our inability to adequately convey what we were experiencing. It has slowly improved over the last seven years, yet sometimes I still feel the often awkward nature of our interactions.
I don’t say this to indicate that we aren’t blessed with loving, sensitive, thoughtful people in our lives…we most certainly are. I say this more as a matter of fact. It is human nature to shy away from what we do not understand. To do nothing, lest doing the wrong thing. Most of the time it’s fine. I get it and its ok. Sometimes though, it makes me sad. I feel disconnected and I fear what life will be like for Kimberly as she gets older and feels this disconnection herself. Or will she? Is it noticeable to me because I know better? I know what it is like to fit in, be part of the majority, just like “everyone else”. I wonder if she will ever know that feeling. Maybe it’s better if she doesn’t. Sort of you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone sort of thing. If you never have it, you can’t miss it. A part of me does not believe this though. She is a smart girl. As Brad likes to say, “She knows the deal”!
The main reason I am highlighting with this now is that I want to let others know its ok to talk to her, to ask her questions, to get on her level and give her a hug. The exchange may not be seamless, you may feel unsure. It is worth it though. She hears everything, takes it all in. She is paying attention. Don’t let her quiet fool you. She will ask me questions later when you are not around. Detailed questions about you, your family, all kinds of things. I do not expect others to know this about her unless they spend a large amount of time with us. I say this for her but also for the other children that are different. Do not underestimate them or the significance of your attention.
I have noticed over the years that I rarely see families with special needs children out doing a lot of the activities we do. When I do, I take any opportunity to interact. Anything I can do to send the message, I am glad you are here. Glad you are taking the extra (sometimes extraordinary) effort to expose your child to various experiences. All too often, families would rather avoid the looks, sometimes comments, and often the struggle to “get out there”. This isolation inhibits opportunities for friends and the community in general to benefit from their presence. We all have something to offer.
I believe in my heart that our Kimberly has expanded the view of many who are close to us. Some who may not know many children with differences or extra needs. We have all grown through our experiences with her. Some particularly special souls have gone out of their way to embrace her, us, and truly provide a respite that is much needed. They will likely never know the importance of their support in our lives.