We live in our own little world of normal. We have a routine, Christian has therapists that come to the home and upon the foundation that is our home and between the parameters of our day to day, we've created a nest. This nest is safe and our version of normal.
It's not until we leave the nest that we are abruptly notified that we live an entirely different normal than everyone else. People stare, which doesn't bother me because they're just curious. It just reminds me that it isn't a "normal" site to see a three year old (who looks like he's five) in a wheelchair.
What? Your three year old doesn't ride around in a wheelchair?! Walking is for the birds!
Not serious. But that's kind of what it feels like when we leave the nest.
One time we were at a birthday party at a pizza place and I was holding Christian on my lap. An entire family - Dad, Mom, like five kids, maybe a grandfather - stared over at Christian while eating their pizza in slow motion. I wasn't exactly offended by it. I'm not offended or bothered by staring. Because it isn't often that someone is staring in disgust. They're staring out of a lack of understanding. And they want to understand what they're seeing. So they take it in, piece by piece, wondering if he's okay, if we're okay.
I don't take offense to this. I really don't. A part of me feels sorry for them and I want to help them understand. I don't want them to feel bad or sad or confused. I want them to know that he's okay. We're okay.
The family at the pizza place eating pizza in slow motion while staring at Christian? After a few minutes of taking Christian in, the man who I assume was the dad looked at me with urgency and said, "Does he want any cinnamon bread? He can have some! We have plenty! Does he want something to eat? He can have some of ours. Really. He can have some. We have plenty! Take some!"
He practically insisted we take his cinnamon bread. We didn't. I assured him that Christian was okay but I was half afraid he'd bring it over and try to feed it to him! It just goes to show you, they just wanted to understand. And they couldn't. So the only thing they could do to make sense of it all is offer cinnamon bread.
Christian has also made a little nest of his own at school. I cannot explain how pleased I am with his experience in his new classroom. Every morning, it seems everyone is happy to see him. He has a little friend who always greets him right away. His friend saw me walking in to get him and pointed to me. He yelled, "Christian!" as he pointed. I said, "Yes! I'm Christian's mom!"
The fifth graders also spend time in the preschool class and apparently a little girl has taken a liking to spending time with Christian. I don't blame her. I mean how could you not love him. I'm not biased at all.
We are leaving at the same time the fifth graders are taking their lunch. As we're leaving, the fifth grade teacher and his whole class says hi and goodbye. I feel like he belongs. I feel like he's welcome and he has a place. It's part of his nest.
The best part about all of this is that, although we're comfortable where we've built our little nests - at home or at school - it's when we're faced with not so comfortable situations that we have the opportunity to teach. My hope is that Christian inspires understanding and teaches tolerance for those unlike ourselves. Maybe he'll inspire a questioning of what makes us uncomfortable. And instead of responding with negativity, maybe Christian will teach to respond with love, a hi and goodbye.
Or maybe some cinnamon bread.
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