Bristel has summer swim lessons 3 days a week at a cute little beach right around the corner.
(clearly this picture isn’t from the beach…but it still reflects her love of the water!)
She’s a fish and totally loves it.
Especially when it’s just the two of us girls. Middle Child Syndrome. Anything that involves alone time with mommy is a huge success.
But today Trevy (and an aide) joined us.
This is where I confess that I have a love-hate thing going on with “the help”. I love that Trevy qualifies for special helper hours through the state. I hate that sometimes it makes me feel dirty. Mostly when the help is with us in public. At home…it’s okay. If they take him somewhere else…that’s okay too. But together? In public? Where all of creation can watch me sunbath while someone else is sweating their booty off trying to keep him safe? Where judgmental eyebrows can be raised (because some of them totally do)? Or comments like “I wish I qualified for help” can be made. Ooooh yes, it’s been said. To my face. More than once. My response is usually something along the lines of, “Well, if your child had 100s of seizures a day and as a result of both the seizures and having half his brain removed had significant global developmental delay, you’d totally qualify too”. I try to smile while I say so. Not sure if it looks more like a grimace though. Not that it really makes a difference, mind you. Because the person that would say something like that openly is far too selfish to ever even come close to putting themselves in my (our family’s) shoes. So yes, I feel very awkward watching someone else chase my child around. And yet…if it weren’t for the help it’s highly doubtful that Bristel would even get to enjoy the swim lessons because I’d be too exhausted to even contemplate taking her. Especially if it also involved Trevy chasing. Even if my booty could use some sweatin’ off.
But alas, all of the above is a rabbit trail and totally not what was on my mind when I started this post to begin with!
Back to my point.
Bristel loves swim lessons. She’s made little friends and is just in general having a blast. I usually let her play for a few minutes with her fellow “fishy” friends while she dries off. I did today too. Or at least I was going to. Trevy has two addictions. Chicken nuggets and his family. Especially his sister. So as soon as she was out of the water, he wanted to be near her. To play with her. And of course, the other kids.
I watched as her little friends gave him the stink eye when he picked up their toys. Even though it was clear he was Bristel’s brother. Then one of them took a net away from Trevy and told him not to touch it. Trevy may not be able to speak what’s on his mind with words, but that doesn’t mean he lacks the ability to communicate or understand. He knew. Right down to his beautiful core, he knew they were including his sister and excluding him. The rejection dripped from his whole self as he turned around and wobbled towards me. With a sad sad face. And a heart that needed comforting.
Listen, I agree they have a right to not share their things. Although for the record, I think there is unwritten etiquette that if you bring a huge plastic tub of beach toys – you should be prepared to share. But whatever. They can decide not to. And their mom can ignore their exclusion of other children if she’d like to.
But I’ll be darned if they snub Trevy and and get rewarded by playing with his sister.
Which is why I hollered that it was time to leave. Now.
To be fair, Bristel was crabbing (looking for creepy hermit crabs to catch as opposed to fussing) and didn’t notice the way they interacted with Trevy. So I wasn’t upset with her, though I was upset. Bristel is (usually…though she has her imperfect moments too) pretty protective of him. She hasn’t been in a situation often where he required protecting from other children. Usually it’s from the snack-stealing dog or the big tease of a brother. So we had a nice long chat on the way home about why I ended her impromptu play date so quickly. That I expect her to protect her brother and other children too. How picking friends can be tricky business but she needs to make sure her friends are kind to everyone. Especially her brother. That I expect her to lead by example. I’m Italian-ish. We’re clannish kinda people. Maybe you’re thinking I totally handled it wrong. And have ideas about how you could have handled it better. Maybe you would have stayed and tried to create a “teach-able” moment for the benefit of the special needs community as a whole (insert choir of angels singing). Maybe on a different day I would have chosen grace too. But today, we left. Today, I decided to teach just my children. To teach Trevy that he’s important enough to make hard choices for. That we’d give up play dates for him. And to teach my daughter about the beauty of being a protector and IN-cluder. Not of the stink eye shooting little urchins with their buckets of beach toys to be shared only with those deemed worthy. Though if they change their stink eye ways…I might consider allowing her to befriend them again too. In the spirit of inclusion, and all. But more importantly (to me) I was trying to teach her to love the underdogs in this world. The Trevys. Those that are easy to reject. Who maybe can’t communicate but can feel way down deep. Possibly even more deeply than the rest of us.
I’m sure Bristel didn’t understand all of my crazy mommy ranting and loving and underdogs and stinks eyes on the drive home. But that’s okay…because I’ll just keep teaching (or ranting…) until she does.