“Honey…Sage…NOT safe.” I say in a firm and even voice. She gives no eye contact and immediately starts climbing the edge of the sidewalk, as if it’s a balance beam.
This is not a good start to a visit with Grandma Joyce. I take her hand as we walk and she’s runs off again. This time towards the entrance where residents in wheel chairs are waiting to get on to the van.
“Sage…” My voice gets a little louder. I glance towards the large window and several residents are watching the weekly drama unfold. As we enter the lobby, our toddler heads to her favorite ‘toy’ in the lobby, the luggage rack.
Our Birth to Three provider encourages us to use these outings as an opportunity to practice listening and following directions. Our little girl doesn’t speak. She doesn’t give eye contact and she doesn’t play. At this point, these weekly one hour visits feel like torture and an opportunity for a tremendous melt-down.
Our girl starts climbing the luggage rack, attempting to ‘ride on top’ of the gold edges. Every attempt I make to get her attention and redirect her fails. The more I try, the more upset she gets and I find myself in the middle of a meltdown. As she starts screaming, dropping her compact body to the floor, the receptionist loudly comments, “Spoiled Brat!”
There are a variety of comments that went through my head. Who the hell do you think you are? Do you think you could do better? If you only knew…. I said nothing, though. I was angry, embarrassed and shocked. It’s simply too difficult as the parent of a toddler or a child with special needs to explain yourself. Anything I feel compelled to say takes too long and ultimately makes me feel like I am trying to defend myself. Forget it!
The truth is I didn’t forget it. I have been visiting my mother-in-law almost weekly for years and every time I see this women it reminds me of that moment. At some point, I ‘let it go’ and start greeting her when we visit.
“How are you doing?” I asked one day.
“Tired.” She smiles. “My daughter is driving me crazy though.”
Oh. “How old is she now? It seems like you were just pregnant.”
“She’s close to a year, but she’s started to walk and is all over the place.” she shakes her head with a wry expression and rolls her eyes.
I’m sure you can imagine where this is going with this, right?
Well…you would be correct. I had a little burst of joy. Perhaps now she can understand what its like when you have so little control of your child. Even if for a moment, she could understand that feeling of powerlessness. I’m only human and I was definitely having a human moment (and petty moment). Ultimately, it didn’t matter whether she ‘learned something’. I experienced something. And in that moment I let some of that embarrassment and anger go…really go.
The receptionist reaches over to show me a picture of her daughter. “She’s beautiful…and yes she looks like a handful.” I remember how adorable and energetic little ones can be. “I hope you enjoy it though…it goes by so quickly.”
“You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” Lewis Smedes