“Unruffled Feathers” – Janet
Approximately every month my kids’ school has a P.A. Day. These are well deserved breaks for the kids and this month allowed me to spend my first with them in years, because I actually had the day off. The day itself couldn’t have been more perfect. It was the middle of November in Canada and we were treated to sun and 15 degree weather. A beautiful day. So I took advantage of the day and we went to a place nearby called Lynde Shores.
It’s an outdoor conservation and hiking area. It’s mostly flat where we go. Alot of the families bring birdseed or peanuts and feed the birds. They will come and perch on your finger and eat out of your hand. My husband had brought the kids once before, but this was my first time. I knew from the last experience that Spiro wasn’t too pleased with the ducks and birds. But since 2 out of 3 kiddos wanted to go, we went.
Once we got there, they all had fun spending some time outside. My 2 typical kids loved the ducks and birds. The main point of going to a place like this is to feed them. But Spiro wanted no part of it. He found a bench and sat down to protest. Or he would come to me for a comforting hug. Apparently the chickadees are terrifying. So I put a tiny pile of birdseed on the bench for him to throw. But once he left the area a chickadee came down and took some seed. When Spiro saw the bird he screamed and said “shoo shoo!”
To be honest, I did find this a bit funny, but the other families nearby gave disapproving looks in our direction for disrupting the quiet. At this point in my journey with Spiro I try not to let stares or comments affect me. So we just carried on, my kids feeding the birds and Spiro kind of freaking out.
After about 30 minutes there, we began to walk along the trails. The kids made some new friends and began to climb an old fallen tree. The family was being watched by their grandmother. I began to chit chat with her as the kids played. I’m not sure how it came up, but at one point I mentioned that Spiro had special needs. It was at this point in the conversation that the lady told me that she was a retired special needs teacher, and that when she saw Spiro she wondered if there was ‘something’….
Now, I’m sure three years ago I wouldn’t have been in the position to casually mention my son’s disability. Let alone accept someone’s comment that they noticed “something”. I would have crumbled at their comments. I probably would have been so offended that they didn’t say the right thing. And would have cried the whole way home with my sunglasses on.
But I’m so fortunate now to have grown into a special needs parent. It hasn’t happened overnight. I’m lucky now that I have some strength to withstand some of the stuff I hear people say. I have learned over the years to redirect the conversation if it’s something I feel uncomfortable discussing. And I need those skills. It’s not easy having a 7 years old who sort of acts like he’s 3. People notice. So I need to be the approachable, neutral special needs parent that Spiro deserves. Because, as parents we are our child’s advocate and sometimes their only voice. So, I was proud of my kiddos on that day, and myself. We all held our ground, the kids were not embarrassed at their brother that day when he was screaming at the birds. They accepted that he couldn’t play with the kids the same way they do. And I just let Spiro move and communicate at his own pace. And honestly, that woman and I had a wonderful conversation. I’m so thankful that I’ve grown that much to be able to relax and enjoy a day like that with my kiddos.