Saturday, November 2, 2013

Special to Me

We supported a 5K today. It was a fundraiser for the two teams with members with special needs on the cheerleading squad in which Playette participates. 

A couple of friends from my running group joined us, which was great. The three of us did the race while BD, Playette and Dez served as cheerleaders.

It was a tough course. Lots of twists and turns, lots of hills, in addition to slick leaves on the trail. I also think it was probably the longest 5K I've ever run in my life.

But we all made it to the end. We had fun and raised money. Mission accomplished.

It was a bit of a walk back to the parking lot after the festivities had concluded. Playette and I were on one side of the road, laughing and joking around. On the other side of the road, there was a mother with her young daughter. As we approached the car, we crossed the street and ended up right in front of the other mother and daughter. 

The little girl spoke up and asked her mother question. 

"Is she special?"

Her mother didn't respond. I assumed that she was trying to formulate what to say.

The little girl was impatient so she turned to me and asked the same question.

"Is she special?"

Her mother apologized, but I told her no it was perfectly fine. This was a great teachable moment.

But...I had nothing.

Crap. Here it was. My chance to say all the right things. My opportunity to teach one small child and, hopefully, make some sort of positive impression. Why didn't I have the perfect words?!

So I said: "She's special to me."

I knew that was a cop-out. So I threatened my brain to come up with something better. Quickly.

I decided to engage her in conversation. I asked her if she noticed that Playette was just a little bit different than her. She said yes.

I asked her if she knew that her body was made up of lots of tiny cells. She didn't know what a cell was.

I took a different approach. I told her that when Playette was born she was given just a little something extra in her body. I told her that she was a lot like her but there was something a little different that made it take longer for her to learn certain things. 

That she understood.

I told her that something different is called Down syndrome. I asked her if she knew what that was. She said no. I told her that was okay and it really didn't matter right now. 

I asked her how old she was and she told me she's six. I asked her if she was in kindergarten or first grade and she told me first grade. I said,"That's great. My daughter is also six and in the first grade. You have a lot in common already."

I asked her if she was learning to read. She told me she didn't know how yet. I told her that Playette was learning to read and that when we were making all those jokes while we were walking it was because we read them in a book that she has been enjoying lately.

I asked her name and she told me. It was extremely close to Playette's actual name. She really enjoyed that coincidence. 

She said, "It's like we have the same personality!"

I exhaled. 

We had reached our destination. The girls happily said goodbye to one another and everyone parted company with a smile on their face.

Failure thwarted.