Most mornings, when I arrive at work, I’d see a father sitting on the wooden bench with his son. Nothing out of the ordinary except that his son is in a wheelchair. I do not know what condition he suffers from but he looks small and frail for his age. His father drives a car with a “Handicapped” sticker on the window and is often seen taking his son around school.
One particular morning, I glanced at their direction and was about to avert my eyes when the father smiled cheerily at me. I smiled back and continued on my way.
This short and fleeting exchange between strangers got me thinking.
Ever since Elliott came into our lives, I have new found respect for my parents. For all parents. But to be parents of a special-needs child, that’s a whole different ballgame . I admire the mental, emotional and physical strength of these parents because I don’t know how they do it.
When I was pregnant with Elliott, we chose not to do the OSCAR test. Due to my age, I was placed in the ‘high risk’ group and yet, we chose not to do it because the boy and I discussed that regardless of the outcome, we will keep our child. Some may call it foolish but I did not want to go through the test knowing that we have already made the decision to keep him, come what may. Some argue that we can be better prepared if the test shows a possibility of a special needs child but my question is: Will we ever be prepared?
Being first time parents, I think I did my fair share of preparation. I read up on what to expect, I went google mad, I bought all the necessary stuff. Yet, when the baby arrived, we were headless chickens running around and trying our best to ‘do the right thing’. What more parents of special needs children? Other than having to cope with their needs physically, there is the mental and emotional side of things.
That short exchange with the father of the special needs child got me thinking because on so many occassions, I felt exhausted. I complained about being tired. About having not enough sleep. About my aching arms and back. About having eyebags and dark eyerings under my eyes.
And this exchange made me stop and reflect.
This father was cheery and smiley. He took the initiative and smiled at me first. Despite the situation, he was upbeat and happy.
And I felt ashamed.
It reminded me again that one should count our blessings because it is easy to forget. In our busy lives, it is easy to get caught up with what we don’t have, instead of what we have.
I have a healthy child. And for that, I will always be grateful. And during those times when I’m woken up for the nth time at 4am by my crying child who needs comforting, I will remember this cheery father and his son.