Our oldest son has a moderate developmental delay. He is eight years old but developmentally is more like a five year old. The specialists say he should continue to develop, he'll just do it slower than everyone else. When he's 14, he'll be like an 11-year-old, and so on. He goes to a regular school, he spends quite a bit of time in a regular classroom, he loves basketball, and he wants to be a chef when he grows up. We have spent a lot of time wondering about his future. There are so many unanswered questions. Will he be a chef, or have a career of any kind? Will he live on his own or forever be with us? And then there are the hard questions, like does he get picked on at school?
From the moment we learned that our son has special needs, we worried about his future. As we shared the news with our family and friends, they all had immediate concerns as well. We didn't have answers to any of their questions, and the specialists we saw couldn't give us much reassurance either.
Six years later, we don't have any more answers. He might have a job of his own someday. He might not. He might live on his own. He might not. He might learn to drive. He might not. But my husband and I no longer spend time worrying about his future.
Specifically, we don't worry anymore about whether or not he will be accepted by his peers at school. Because he goes to a regular elementary school, he spends part of his time in a typical classroom, and part of his day in a special ed room. He has an aide who follows him around and helps him out. He is clearly not like the other kids.
He has speech issues. He is not easy to understand by most people. He repeats random phrases, sometimes at the completely wrong time and sometimes humorously dead-on accurately.
He is clumsy. He invades personal space on a daily basis. He jumps up and down when he's excited, even if it's in the middle of quiet work time. He hugs everybody. Everybody. Whether he knows them or not. He walks down the hallway at his school and shares a smile and an enthusiastic high-five with everyone he passes.
He runs down the sidewalk, away from me and towards his friend when I take him to school in the morning. And the friend he's running towards? She is a cute little girl, running towards him with a smile on her face that matches the smile on his. She's not taking pity on him. She's genuinely happy to see him.
So why does this kid, who is so clearly different from "normal" kids, happily strut around his school like he owns it? There are many reasons, the fantastic staff at his school being one of them. But this little boy shines in whatever environment he is in. He simply can't help himself. He can't help being happy, because he loves who he is. He isn't ashamed of the fact that he's different. He doesn't even fully understand that he is different. He just knows that he likes himself, and he goes into every situation assuming that everyone will like him; therefore, they do. Imagine if we all had that kind of confidence, to simply accept and like ourselves. No pretense. No image to protect. Imagine if we all could just purely be ourselves. Think about how that might affect your life. Your relationships. What you post on social media. Think how it would dissolve anything you feel shame around. My son might not be able to tell you the meaning behind the story he just read, but he also has no shame, hidden fears, or anxieties in his heart. He knows instinctively that those things lose their power when they are shared.
We still don't have any idea what his future holds. Those questions about living independently and having a job remain unanswered. But we are not worried, despite the fact that our little boy does not have a high IQ. In fact, his academic intelligence is far below average. But he is smarter than we are, and smarter than many people we know who have much higher IQ's. He knows that the best kind of success you can have is to love life, to trust in life, and to simply be yourself.
I am so glad you are here! Welcome to my blog. This is your space, too. My name is Amy, and I am no stranger to the ups and downs of life. Join me as we search for beauty, authenticity, tell our truth, and hold space for each other in the messiness of life.