As a Mom of a Son With Special Needs, I Beg You to Have ‘the Talk’

This summer is the first summer Baker has been 3.

Silliest of statements, I know. Of course this summer is the first summer Baker has been 3. Hear me out.

Three-year-olds get to play with the big kids. Three-year-olds are no longer considered babies and given the grace babies are given.

Babies are allowed to sit quietly. Babies are allowed to keep to themselves. Babies are allowed to play in their own safe area.

There are no expectations surrounding play with babies, except that babies will be babies. Babies do what babies do.

Last summer, and the summer before, and the summer before that, Baker was a baby. This summer is the first summer Baker has been 3.

This summer is the first summer Baker has played with the big kids.

This summer is the first summer Baker’s play has been laden with expectations of looking and sounding a certain way.

This summer is the first summer Baker has been noticed as different.

Before, Baker could sit on the sidelines. He could bounce on my lap and giggle and coo to everyone’s delight.

Before, Baker was a baby. Before, it was OK Baker could not talk, could not run as quickly, could not jump as high.

Before, none of the other kids saw Baker any differently than they saw their baby sister or little cousin. He was a baby (and a darn cute one). He did what babies did. Because of his different abilities, some of it came at a slower rate and took much greater effort. His hypotonia caused his chubby little legs to frog out when he slept and his little body to collapse into mine, winning him all the awards for world’s greatest snuggler. He was a baby, and everybody loves a baby. Especially Baby Baker.

This summer is the first summer Baker has been 3. And because of that, this is the first summer our little sphere has been expanded. And because of that, two things have happened to this momma’s heart: it has experienced both unspeakable joy and unspeakable ache.

My heart has threatened to overflow watching Baker create new friendships. I’ve been so encouraged listening to other mommas enlighten and empower their children with knowledge about Down syndrome as questions have presented themselves about why Baker’s play and talk differ from their own. I’ve loved watching the innocence of children, as they love with their whole heart, without judgment and with unhindered acceptance.

My heart has also threatened to shatter into pieces as I see other children notice Baker’s different abilities. “Is he special ed?” one asked innocently. Others can’t understand his fascination with perfectly folding all of our beach towels instead of bounding down the slide like all the other children. Why, when their conversations flowed as easily as lemonade on a summer day, did Baker prefer silence? Why, when he does speak, does he often do so first with his hands and then with words that sound so differently than our own? Why does he often drift to the perimeter when all of the action is in the center?

Why is he different than me?

Could you answer that question?

Little more than three years ago, I would have stuttered through it, preferring to brush it under the doormat or opting to combat it with the eye that commanded silence instead of opening doors to a conversation of acceptance.

As the mom of a seriously great kid, who happens to have unique needs, I beg you to have the talk. The talk about likes and differences, and how often we’re more alike than different.

If you need a name, use Baker. If you need a face, I think his is pretty perfect. If you need words, use a picture book (spoken like a true teacher, ha!). I love “We’ll Paint the Octopus Red.”

Your children won’t mind if the words aren’t perfect or eloquent or include textbook terminology. They can be simple and succinct and from the heart.

From the bottom of mine, thank you.

More than you know, thank you.

Photo credit: Katie Thompson Photography

Follow this journey on Our Dream Come True.

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