I heard the yells and the cheers as I finished swimming my lap of the pool and while this would not be unusual if I were in a race, but I was not in a race, so the cheers rang out quite noticeably.

It took me a few seconds to figure out the exact reason for the cheers. It was all for a little three year old girl who just decided that today was the day she was going to swim a complete lap of the pool. So her dad was walking next to her in the water, cheering her on. Then her siblings walked along the side of the pool, cheering her on. Soon the off-duty life guards did the same and then when that little red head popped up at the end of the pool, she smiled so beautifully, her hair kind covering some of her face, out of breath but PROUD. And the cheers continued.

So for that moment in time, all the people in this scene were focused on the happy moment, this little girl’s success. They were fully invested in this moment. All the other thoughts of their life and day were put aside. They were in the moment and they were celebrating this child’s hard work. How great is it was to see this. And it got me thinking.

In a world that has chaos all around, texting and social media that can absorb us 24/7, here was a situation that had everyone focusing on one thing, something as simple as a child swimming a lap of the pool. It was like time stood still for that brief moment and when does that really happen?

But as parents of special needs children know, that chaos just mentioned is combined with a life that is busy because of the work we do. Our days take on the shape of our child’s needs. And while the days may be the same in so many ways, our days actually take on the shape of our child’s need of the moment. So while we may have our schedule in place, a meltdown or a new fear can derail the schedule completely or at the very least, twist and turn it around.

And the minds of those taking care of and loving these special needs children, can go in 20 directions in 5 minutes. We have to think on our feet, making judgments quickly, taking action just as fast or even changing from being an advocate one second to a educator the next. (We all have been there when someone in some line at a store asks a question.) We plan the next therapy, the next phone call to make and even the next meal our child will eat. Yes, 20 directions in 5 minutes.

Then when Summer comes, it brings the fun, sun and no traditional school schedule, which for the typical developing child is great but for our children, can prove challenging to say the least. So plans for summer need to be made back in the winter or early Spring with the hopes that what we plan on actually happens once the calendar turns to June. How many of us have heard the following and felt their heart drop? “ Hi, I know we planned for me to help you on Tuesdays and Thursdays this summer but I am so sorry to have to tell you but I cannot because….” If this happens we know that life stepped into this person’s world and we have to react to this change and fix it. Again, 20 directions in 5 minutes.

I offer this story of this little, swimming girl because even through all of our crazy, the cheers for our special needs children should be just as loud. It is okay, to put the world on hold, and simply celebrate the victory.

So if the world can celebrate a small child swimming, then we should teach the world that it is more than okay to celebrate a teenager learning to tie their shoe, order in a restaurant or pay a bill. No one completely understands how our hearts can soar at these successes, unless you are on a similar journey. So to celebrate the success, teaches the world that that skill just completed was not just a bill paid but a success.

I speak these words to myself as much as I say them to you. Life has that unique way of making you so busy that you do not notice the very things that would fortify you for your next leg of your journey.

For simply saying “Good job” instead of thinking just how special that skill or action was.

So I offer out to me and you….take a minute, think of that little girl reaching the wall and the celebration that followed, now think of your child doing that “something” you have wanted to see. And now let the celebration follow….

I wish you all a peaceful week

Michele Gianetti
Author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”

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