This morning, I sat poolside, the palm trees swaying in the breeze, as the warmth of the sun melted away the frustration of every meltdown for the past month. The relaxation was only interrupted intermittently by my children's squeals of delight as their daddy played with them in the pool.
Okay, so it was less than five minutes, and it was after swimming with all three kids for about an hour, and technically I was out of the pool to dry before they came dripping up to me, one humming and stimming and the others ready for toweling and the room.
The plan was to swim and enjoy the morning that Daddy didn't have to jet out to a clinic, and it was awesome. The kids love the water. Yes, I'm the paranoid mother who makes her kids wear lifejackets in the pool, but they love the little bit of freedom that comes with not being tied to mom or dad completely. Richie and Maelynn are fabulous about this. They both jump into the pool with no problem. Maelynn is quite the fearless one, actually. She makes her mama nervous on a regular basis.
And dear, sweet Ryan... oh my. He loves the water. But just like so many things, he loves it in his way and in his time. He will not jump in, he walks in. Then he treads around, splashing very little. At one point today, as I sat on the edge of the pool thinking of whether or not to get back in or just go dry off, Ryan hopped in and stood on the sitting ledge in the water. He looked around, then jumped!
I about lost it. I clapped and cheered, and he looked a little pleased. He landed on his feet, which I assume gave him some confidence. He repeated this action over and over, and I had to wonder as I cheered for my big seven year old with every half-jump into the water, what people around us thought.
See, just ten feet away, my four and two year olds were leaping fearlessly and with complete abandon into water deeper than they were tall. Giggling and splashing, they paddled over and over to the ladder (or monkey bars... I have no idea) and climbed out, only to go at the same time this time. Over and over. Why wasn't I cheering for them? By all appearances, it looked as if I'd lost my mind.
But, as we all know, things aren't always what they seem.
As at so many other times and in so many other places, it looks like Ryan knows better, is bigger, and looks completely normal. So what's the big deal?
This is where we're learning that advocacy is a 24/7 job. We are not simply taking our kids to the pool, to convention, or out to eat. We're swimming upstream. Planning dinner out on the Riverwalk? No biggie! Well, almost. We can't wait there. I mean can't. Five feet from water, no barrier between the boy who loves water and the river. Add to this the people crowding past us as we wait, and the confusion alone is enough to make me uncomfortable. To Ryan, it's unbearable. He can't help that.
Parent here takes on a new level. We are to translate the world for him; to be his embassy. To defend him to the ones who don't know, to ride the line between conforming the world to him and him to the outside world.
I used to think that being prepared for an ARD meeting (IEP meeting for those of you in other states) meant that I was advocating for my child. Then I went a few places away from school with him, and over an embarrassingly long time, I learned that advocating isn't just speaking up at school. It's in everything we do. It's reminding each other that while that restaurant sounds good to our tummies, it isn't likely to sit well at this time and in this place. It's more than that, though. It's in the choosing, not the choice. It's living in a mind and heart that is interested in pushing and supporting. One without the other will result in disaster, if not today, then at some point.
It's also in knowing in my heart... and making sure... that Richie and Maelynn know I'm just as proud of them.
So in the at-last comfort of my own skin, knowing that we are here at this moment to enjoy and to learn, we will venture out of the hotel and into the unknown of the city. We will deal with and make the best of whatever should happen, knowing that we are held in the arms of grace.
Thanks be to God for advocating for me.