A few weeks ago I had one of those moments, the kind that breaks your heart. There you are going about your business, aware that your child has special needs but not thinking about it constantly. Then WHAM! it happens again, you are reminded and it hurts.
We have season passes to the local amusement park. Owen really enjoys himself there, they have a great kids water park and so many other fun things for him to do. Sometimes the park has “bring a buddy” days when season pass holders can bring a friend for free. We had talked bout meeting Owen’s cousins there for a day all summer long and we finally found a weekend that worked for everyone. We were all so excited to share one of our favorite places with some of our favorite people.
One of the rules on the days you can bring a buddy is that they need to be in the same car as the season pass holder. So we met up with my brother in law, Matt and the kids at a local pizza place. Justin hopped in the car with Matt and my niece Calleigh (6) and nephew Nick (10) got in with Owen and me.
As I drove, Nick started to tell a joke that went something like this…
After several rounds of this Calleigh announces, not this joke again! But Nick promises it gets funnier. So it keeps going for a little while. As far as I could tell, the point of the joke was to see how long he could keep her saying, “Who’s there?”
Finally, I simply couldn’t take it anymore. No one seemed to think this was funny except for Nick, and Owen. It’s impossible to say if Owen really found the “joke” funny or if he was just that happy to be sitting in the car with his cousins. Now this next part sounds kind of mean but in my defense this is how this side of the family talks to each other… I turn around and tell Nick that this joke makes me feel a little happy that Owen doesn’t talk yet. Nick takes it in stride and tells me that the real problem isn’t if Owen learns to talk, it is when he has someone else to talk to. I can see his point since I am pretty sure the joke wouldn’t have gone on nearly as long if Calleigh wasn’t there to torture.
Now is when I make my mistake, after a pause I say, “Well, he does have Gabe (his cousin that lives nearby) and he talks A LOT.”
Calleigh pauses, mulling this over, then with a very perplexed look on her face says, “Wait… isn’t Owen older than Gabe?”
WHAM! There it is, the moment. I know Gabe is 2 years younger than Owen. I know he has passed Owen up in speech and in some other areas too. Some days I hurt so deeply over this, other days I don’t think much about it. It is what it is. I can’t change it. It doesn’t make me love Owen less, or Gabe for that matter. It is just the way it is and most of the time I don’t think about it.
Initially I just said, “Yes sweetie, he is.” But I knew that didn’t clear things up for her, I knew she was still confused.
I try to walk this thin line. I want Owen to know his 18q- is something we are not ashamed of. We are so proud of him and missing a little part of that 18th chromosome is part of who he is. That is fine with us. But I also don’t want him to grow up hearing us always apologizing for the things he is a bit slower on. If he hears us constantly telling people what he can’t do and why then he will learn that he is less than other people and he certainly is not.
Finally I just said, “You know some people just take longer to learn things than others. Owen is still learning how to talk and even though he is older than Gabe it is just taking him some more time. Everyone learns things at their own pace.”
She seemed satisfied with that and Nick followed up with, “Yeah, some people can’t whistle as good as others and that is NO REASON to make them feel bad.” I sensed this might be a personal struggle of his and it made me giggle. Mostly though I was very happy that he took the focus off of Owen.
I am pretty sure that Calleigh forgot all about this by the time we got out of the car and headed in to the park. It stayed with me all day. It was really painful to be reminded of Owen being different. And I was mad at myself because it was my fault it happened in the first place.
When we finally got home and I shared what happened with Justin I was still rather upset. Not at Calleigh, or anyone for that matter, just sad. Then, because he is wise he pointed out that as far as she is concerned Owen is perfect and it never occurred to her that maybe he is different or not exactly as he should be. I guess I can’t blame her for seeing him exactly the same way I do.