Thanksgiving was a relaxed affair in this household. There were no guests, no family coming over, just the usual six of us. But as five of us have lives and jobs and trips and school and rehearsals, dinner isn’t ever the six of us anymore, so in a way, gathering all together was a special occasion.
I got out a tablecloth and threw it over the table, then went about my fastidious way of having to ensure it was even on all sides. Mind you, I’m kicking socks over into a corner, because my fastidiousness is a selective thing. But I got the tablecloth on, and got out plates, and started setting the table.
Maura has a thing for table clothes. She has a favorite – a cream one with gold thread in it. It’s Fancy Target, and she loves it. She took it to school once or twice, maybe a dozen times. She’ll drape all sorts of cloths over coffee tables to set up some sort of tea party – it may be a fleece throw or a random piece of My Little Pony fabric, but it becomes a table cloth because fancy dining is about to happen.
Needless to say, setting the table caught her attention.
She decided to help.
She had plunked down her white Ikea metal pitcher with a bouquet of fake red roses in the center of the table.
“There!” she said, proud of her contribution.
“They’re perfect!” I agreed.
We have these moments all the time. And every time, they bring joy into the room. They’re little moments, but they’re everything.
I see so many parents – usually of younger kids with various issues – get down about what their child can’t do. I see them struggle and focus too much on the hardships of raising a child with special needs. I see them wishing for more.
I could do that with Maura. I could write a book on all the things she may never do. I could go on about how things can be hard, because it can be. Hard for her. Hard for me. I could compare her to others in her age group, see the big, glaring differences. Women my age are beginning to empty their nests – I could be bitter and lecture then about appreciating their empty nest, because it means their child is independent. I could weep over Maura’s lack of friends.
She is who she is, our Maura, and I am good with that. Wishing and mourning and being bitter gets no one no where. Meanwhile, I’d be missing out on the fabulous human that she is. I’d be too busy staring at the Big Picture that I’d miss out on little moments. Like helping decorate the table for Thanksgiving. Or the fact that while she’s terribly messy, she always fully appreciates when I clean her room. Her utter delight with the whole idea of Christmas and is supremely giddy when I start to decorate.
No, we don’t have in depth conversations. She can’t always tell me how she feels or what she wants or her opinion on current events. Yet we’ve figured out how to communicate.
“Look!” she says, pointing to the jug of flowers.
Translation – “Look Mom! I decided we needed flowers on the table, as this is obviously a holiday dinner, and I wanted to contribute to the table.”
How can you not love that?
There are plenty of people who’ll tell me what Maura can’t do – doctors, teachers, IEP reports. I don’t need to keep count, others are doing that for me. My job is to highlight to everyone what she can do, what she is capable of. To act as an interpreter of sorts. And I get to be her mom – which means I am her teacher and guide and cheerleader and her biggest fan and find delight in the lovely things she does for me.
Like help decorate the table for a holiday meal.
There is joy in these little moments, a shared joy, and my only wish is that more people would find these moments as well.