To the mom in the baby water park at Kentucky Kingdom yesterday, (Friday, July 22), I talked to you about your kids. Their behavior struck me in such a way that I did something I normally don’t do, and I asked your son where his mother was so I could have a word with her. We spoke and I don’t think you fully understood how your children and their behavior affected me, so I am writing this.. maybe it will find its way to you and you will know who you are. Maybe it wont but other moms will see it and maybe take something away from it as well. It may not seem like a big deal to other people. But I do know that there are some people who will really get it.
I was at the park with Baylee, my 5 year old. She is autistic, and mostly non verbal. We were practicing very hard on waiting in line, and she was doing well for the most part. We had a routine. Wait in line.. then when we were 4 from the front, sit on the step, then down into the water then scoot up, then wait at the top of the slide for the ok to go from the lifeguard. This was our routine, and every time she did it, her understanding of the routine improved and her patience increased. But alas, children are children, there are little ones who don’t understand waiting and jump right in front of the next in line and for the most part no big deal, except for a kiddo like mine, who really doesn’t mind much that she had to wait longer, but is very upset that the steps of the routine she just learned are now out of whack. And to her it feels like the end of the world! Coping with unexpected change is another skill we practice every day. It is one of the more difficult skills to practice and especially in public when people, especially other children do not understand why she is reacting the way she does. I dread it. Not what she will do but what other people will.
So this happened, and as she was expecting to move up to the next step in the waiting game, and couldn’t, I braced myself for what would happen, and that is when your daughter looked up at me and said “she can go ahead of me” Baylee had not had an opportunity to get upset yet, so I am not sure exactly why she did it. I felt like maybe she could tell by the way I had been talking to her that she had special needs. It was so sweet and I told her what a sweet girl she was. And we moved on. Of course as busy as the park is, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in the same situation, when a young boy this time was in front and offered to let Baylee go ahead because he could tell she was not understanding what happened. Again, I praised his good behavior and kindness and we went ahead, and I was struck that two different children would be so intuitive and kind. Like most autistic children, Baylee does not LOOK any different than any other child. And it’s not really immediately obvious by her behavior either. It takes some observation and usually children their age don’t realize she has autism. I guessed them to be 8-10ish. When I then seen them together it made sense. They were brother and sister. I told them both how great it was that they looked out for someone who was different.. and the difference that small acts of kindness make even if it doesn’t seem like much. They really touched my heart.
So I asked your son to point you out for me. I made sure to let your kids know how nice it was for them to be kind and understanding but I wanted YOU to know that you are raising two wonderful children. When I came to you and told you about my experience with your kids and told you that they were super kids and you are doing a great job, you said “I don’t know about that.” Well, mom, you are. A small gesture like theirs may not seem like much. But I promise it was.
As a mom of a child with Autism, we do not know what to expect for her. She grows and learns more every day, but I still worry. Every time she has a big improvement or meets a goal she has worked for, my joy is immediately dimmed by the concern I have for the kinds of struggles she faces in a world that is not always kind. She is so funny and smart, and brings a smile to the face of most people who she comes into contact with, but sometimes we encounter people who do not immediately see how sweet and funny she is. I know there are people out there who will refuse to see those things simply because she is different. It scares me. I worry, I dread, and sometimes we stay home because we don’t want to deal with some of the unpleasant things we sometimes experience.
Sure your children’s kindness helped in that moment to avoid a meltdown, and that is kind of a big deal for kids on the spectrum, but I will tell you what is an even bigger deal though, and that is that it gave me some HOPE! When I looked at those sweet little faces, filled with pride as I praised them, it made me happy to know that more moms are raising their children the way you are!
So I just wanted to take the opportunity again to thank you and let you know you are doing a really really good job!
Credit: Stephanie Skaggs