When you’re a parent, you hope for a lot of things for your child. You hope your child will be born healthy. You hope your child will grow up happy. You hope your child will be smart and self-confident. You hope that whatever is thrown their way in life, your child will come out of it on the other side better and stronger because of it. You hope your child will turn out to have a life better than yours. You hope that when your child goes out in the world all of those little lessons you taught him or her stick and they do the right things…especially when you’re not looking. You do the best that you can as a parent, but in the end, you do “hope” a lot.
Today, I got to smile at one of my “hopes” coming back to me.
As I set out to pick my daughter up from her after-care program at school, I texted her and said “On my way. Be there in five minutes. Be ready please”. In return, I got her typical “K” response. (Yes, she still does that to me daily.) When I got there, I could see her on the far side of the room, seated with two other kids, playing a game. When I finally got her attention, she gave me her “just a minute” gesture, and I had to stand there making idle chit-chat with the ladies who run the program. That “just a minute” was more like five minutes, and I could feel myself getting antsy because I had things to do. As she finally gets up from the table, I see her pat the boy she was sitting next to on the back as she says goodbye, but I didn’t think anything of it.
When we get in the car, I say “How come you weren’t ready to go today?”, and then I get the whole story. It turns out that she was seated at the table with a boy she has known since she was three years old, whom she went to preschool with. He has Autism. He is beyond smart, but socially and behaviorally, he struggles.When she was three, she had a hard time understanding him but it didn’t take her long to get it and accept it. He has come an incredibly long way since he was three, and I smile whenever I see him because his progress is quite amazing. The problem is other kids, especially those who don’t really know him, don’t quite “get” him or his outbursts. Luckily, my daughter does…and she has always been his friend.
She tells me that the reason she wasn’t ready is because she was sitting with her friend playing a game. She said that this is what she does every time she goes to aftercare and he is there, so he doesn’t have to sit alone or get picked on by other kids. Then she launches into a mini-tirade about how she hates when other kids tease him, and how she sticks up for him…even if he’s not around. She tells the other kids that they are ridiculous and maybe if they would stop for a second and get to know or understand him or his disability, then they’d be ashamed of how they have treated him. (She also throws in lines like “By the way, he’s super smart. Maybe he’s just too smart for you!” Atta girl!!) She proudly tells me that the other kids are finally starting to leave him alone, especially when she’s with him, and she says it in such a staunch manner that I want to stop the car and hug her as tight as I can. Instead, I pat her on the leg and tell her that I am proud of her for being a good person with a good heart. I tell her that I am proud that she stands up for others, even if it goes against “popular” opinion, because she’s saying what’s “right”…and I drive the rest of the way home with a smile on my face, hiding the tears in my eyes behind my sunglasses.
I have to say, in the past 11 years I have been there to see plenty of things my daughter has done that have made me proud…but one of the things I am most proud of is what she did today and what she has been doing…when I wasn’t looking.