Thursday, April 25, 2019

I Want To Help You Understand

Dear Sweet Child,

Today, I saw you at the park, as my daughter played in the sand you casually walked over. You needed a friend. I didn't see your parent or caregiver but you really wanted to play. You squatted down beside my daughter and the questions began.

"What is your name?"

No response.

"I said, what is your name?"

Seraphina (in a slight whisper)

I knew you didn't hear but you see sweet child, I rarely get to see her interact so I wanted to understand what the world looked like from a child's point of view.

"Hey, are you okay?"

No response.

"What is wrong with you?"

I glanced in the direction of my friend. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to tell you her name was Seraphina, she's 5, she has autism and a number of other disabilities and she may want to play, she may want to engage but she may not know how. Yet I stood. Quiet. You see sweet child, once I told a child and their mom admonished me, she asked me not to tell her child such personal things. Today, I still hurt from that conversation. Autism is a part of Seraphina. Its what makes her special. She sees things differently. Brilliantly. She's aware. Always. She's listening. Intently. More than we know. She may not always tell us what she hears or what she is thinking but its there. It comes out, in bits and pieces.

As the beauty of the sun beat down on our faces, you asked again.

"What is your name?"

I could see you were getting fed up, and then you asked something else.

"Are you a baby? Why don't you talk?"

I was hurt. Not by you. Your innocence was beautiful. Your desire to connect was incredible. I was hurt by my own reaction. I longed for her to answer, to see that piece of her I know come out from her being and be shared with you but she chose silence. I respect that. For her, its safe.

I decided this was stressing you both out and I moved her to the swing.

Later she scurried with a friend, a friend who knows her, always has, to the sand again.

There you found us. Again, no parent in sight.

You squatted next to me. You began to ask me questions.

"Do you like Spiderman?"

"Sure, he's fine."

"Do you like playing in the sand box?"

"Not really but I like to see my daughter happy."

You remembered and once again, began the dialogue with my daughter. Her silence deafening.

This happened at least once more in the hour we were there and I wondered, how I could help you understand.

Should I find your parent? Did you want to know? You seemed inquisitive and like your sweet little mind was insatiable for information and I thought you would like to know, about Seraphina, how her mind is just a little different but how she's special, just like you.

Instead, I sat, quiet. I watched her play.

My best friend came over. She made me feel safe. I needed her there. The warmth of my tears quickly faded when she sat by my side. She's walked this journey with me and few know me like she does. I felt like I didn't have to continue to guess how to handle the situation with you when she was by my side. I could be otherwise engaged and honestly, ignore you. Eventually, you ran off.

Sweet child, I want to teach you. I want to teach all the children who want to learn. Our world is special. Its special because each person is in it and this world is unique because each of us is unique.

I'm sorry if I let you down, if I kept you from learning today, because perhaps you could have been a child advocate, supporting, loving and accepting others, different from yourself but you see sweet child, I'm just not sure how to help you understand.

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