Today Noah turned 9 and I think we can all agree that it has been a year like no other!
In past years I have always been very emotional on Noah’s birthday, so much so that my husband is waiting for it, watching me sheepishly and ready with the armour for my outburst or the inevitable emotional commentary. I suppose it’s because I can’t help but reflect on the day Noah was born, the trauma of hearing Down Syndrome for the first time and all the fears and feelings of hopelessness I had on that day.
This year I find I am not emotional in the same way.
Of course some of it is the passing of time. After 9 years the world looks different and some of those early fears have changed. But it is also because this year has turned our fears and our notions of what is normal completely on its head. We have all found ourselves navigating a stormy sea we could never have imagined and labels or levels of ability play no part in our success or failure at this task. None of us have emerged without scars and nobody will come up for air the same people we were when Covid came crashing on our somewhat peaceful shores.
This year has been very very tough but it has also taught me so much about myself, our little family unit of 4 and about our community. When I reflect on the year, I can’t help but dwell on some of those very difficult days and all the things my little boy has missed out on, but I also see a confident little boy, who somehow survived homeschooling with Mom, walking through our neighbourhood on his way to school. He is all about independence now and wants to walk by himself so as I hover like a stalker at a distance behind him, I get to observe the neighbourhood from that same distance. I see a little boy growing in confidence as he walks along with the heavy schoolbag greeting everybody who passes him with a bright and cheery “Good Morning”. I see the smiling face of the person who has just received the greeting with warmth and a smiling start to their day. I see parents of other children look around for me to make sure Noah is safe and somebody is watching him. I see the lollipop lady and school caretaker greet him as a grown up but secretly ensure he goes in the gate safely and then look for me to give a reassuring thumbs up that he is all set.
I think about the school principal at the end of the phone to reassure me in the midst of homeschooling that Noah will be ok, the Resource teacher sending me adjusted homeschool sheets and checking my home school videos to give advice and reassurance. I think of the SNA making video calls from afar just to say hello because she misses him. I think of the teacher who came in to tutor him during the summer months to get him ready for a return to school but who now visits with Christmas presents and is already booked up for any sessions we need just because she wants to.
I see his little friends who turned up for his Covid friendly birthday celebration today. They all know his passion in life is pizza so when we set him up in the camper van outside, all kitted out in his chefs hat and apron to man his own pizza truck they all showed up with love and enthusiasm for Noah’s new venture! They complimented his awesome chef skills and his tasty pizza as they walked away with their paper plates full of goodies. They embraced Noah’s delighted smiles and showed friendship despite the boundaries of health guidelines and social distancing. I see the parents of these gorgeous boys who include Noah and accept him for who he is.
The reason I write about our journey is to take people on it with us. There is so much fear around parenting a child with additional needs and it is an emotional journey. As time goes on the challenges change. I cant deny that it can be very difficult watching Noah’s friends tell a funny and very clever story, friends who can communicate so clearly, build meaning friendships through shared passion for sport or collecting Match Attack cards and who can write letters and do their maths at a much more advanced stage then Noah can. That is a challenge we have to take day by day but there is so much more to this journey that impacts not only on my family but on all those involved in Noah’s life. His friends are learning about diversity, how to love unconditionally and they find joy in Noah’s difference. I am so lucky that their parents are also open to learning about this quirky little dude and including him in their lives. Noah takes every day as it is presented to him and sees everybody in his life as a potential friend. He will take a challenge and make it his own and while it may take some time to master it, he will embrace his achievement as if it has never been done before. He can take your darkest day and make you laugh or do something so silly on purpose just to make you feel better. As the years go by, I cannot imagine him being anybody but himself and I simply cannot imagine the person I would be today without the influence of this truly amazing little boy.
Happy Birthday to my New Year firecracker……. pizza anyone???!!!