Ellen S.: Back when my son, Max, was little little, I did not really appreciate it when strangers did nice things for him. Max has cerebral palsy (due to a stroke at birth) and didn't walk until he was 3. He wasn't able to talk -- and still can't. In the early years, sweet gestures from people used to unnerve me. I hadn't yet accepted that I had a kid with disabilities, so it bummed me out when people noticed that I had a child who looked like he needed help.
But all last week, when we were on vacation at the beach, I was very thankful for the kindness of strangers.
Thankful to the woman on the boardwalk operating the car ride, who let Max go around again and again (and again and again).
Thankful to the head of the day camp, who took extra-special care of Max.
Thankful to the woman at the zoo operating the popular kiddie train ride, who let Max go around twice.
Thankful to the waitress at the restaurant, who pureed meatballs for Max and then took back his milkshake (twice!) to thicken it up so he'd have an easier time drinking it.
Thankful to the woman at the miniature golf course, who let Max play for free.
Thankful to the maintenance guy at the resort where we were staying, who was walking through the lobby carrying a box of pizza. Max ran up to him and gestured at the box, and damn if the guy didn't open it up and hand Max a slice on a plate (and then Sabrina, too, after she charmingly wailed, "I WAAAAAAAANT SOME!!!!").
Thankful to the security guy at the resort, who let Dave drive Max around in his golf cart in the underground garage. (I think Max is experiencing severe ride withdrawal this week.)
Sometimes, gestures like these give me pause. I don't want Max to feel spoiled or entitled, and I don't want other kids to resent him. There was another kid riding that train at the zoo who wanted to stay on it as well, only his mother made him get off. He glared at Max (though Max didn't notice).
Still, at this point in Max's life, I am OK with letting him get the kid-glove treatment (within reason). These gestures make Max happier. They improve the quality of his life and make mine easier as well. They also make me feel supported in this tremendous responsibility I have of raising a child with special needs. Whereas before the recognition from strangers was bittersweet, I have grown to appreciate it. I feel less alone.
It doesn't take a village to raise a child with special needs -- it takes a world.
Courtesy Love That Max.