Some people say that you never recognize the impact of a moment until it has passed. I guess that is just another thing that special-needs families do differently… and wonderfully. We know the impact of a single moment. We long for those moments. We pray for those moments. And when they happen, we hold our breath and stare in wonder, knowing just how precious they are.

A few days ago, we had a moment.

Daddy came home from work in the middle of the evening flurry of school-lunch-making, backpack-packing, and note-signing. Amid the noise of greetings, kitchen noise, and Little Brother telling Daddy five million exciting things, a little voice broke in. A little voice that’s somewhat robotic, and somewhat melodic at the same time, spoke very clearly:

“Daddy. Will you play… a game… of Trouble with… me. Please.”

My husband and I locked eyes. We both knew it was a capital-m Moment. I immediately cleared the table, Little Brother ran to get the game, and Daddy dropped down and gave his thin 9-year-old a hug. “I would love to play with you,” he said.

We sat down and played our first ever game as a whole family. Start to finish. A perfect moment.

If you are a long-time follower, you may be wondering, “didn’t I read this already?” Well, you sort of did. Eleven months ago, I wrote this post–Pop It!–about the very first time my son asked to join me and Little Brother in a game. It was the first time he ever took an interest. Eleven months later, after a lifetime of waiting and hoping, he played his first game, start to finish.

In the nearly-a-year that has passed between his first interest in a game, and the first time he actually played it, many tiny steps took place. He watched hundreds of more games. He partially participated in dozens. He set up the board over and over again, and just looked at it. He sat his stuffies around the board and pretended that they were playing. He played various board game apps on his kids tablet, and learned some game language. He practiced saying, “You did it!” “Uh-oh, that’s a close one,” “Don’t worry, it’s all part of the game,” and more, over and over again. He played a game–with himself moving all four participant’s pieces–all by himself as practice. And there were perhaps even more steps that I did not see. He worked hard for his moment.

Something I hear all the time from well-meaning people is, “Ah, don’t worry about it. He’ll do it when he’s ready,” and “He’s just on his own timeline,” and, what seems to be their favourite cliché: “All in good time.”

They aren’t wrong. But I don’t think they really have any concept of what “all in good time” means to most special-needs families. We are not talking about about how your first child walked at 11 months, but the second walked at 13 months. We are not talking about one child taking an interest in sports in Kindergarten, while some of his classmates didn’t really get there until Grade One. We are talking about years and years. We are talking about glacially slow progress that most others cannot see at all. We are talking about a child saying their first words at age four, or eight, or twelve. We are talking about a child being nearly a teen before they are toilet trained, or never gaining that skill at all. And so much more. All in good time is a secret timeline that no one knows for certain, and only a few have the privilege of watching play out.

And hear me: it is a privilege. It is beautiful, and wonderous, and joyful. It is also long. So very long. And like all long journeys, it is normal to get tired.

If you are on the outside looking in on a family that is on their own long journey, I would love to give you two suggestions today. Two things that you could try instead of saying, “Don’t worry. All in good time.”

  1. Be a Rest Stop on the Journey
    Ask real questions about their real experience. “How much sleep do you get?” “When was the last time you had one hour alone?” “When was the last time you had your hair done?” “When was the last time you went to coffee with a friend?”

    Then, avoid advice and use actions instead. Make something restful happen.
    (Need ideas? Check out this post.)

  2. Find Joy in the Journey with Them
    A special-needs parent hears way too many well-intentioned questions that end up landing like a kick to the stomach. “So, is he talking yet?” Devastating.

    Instead, ask about those thousands of tiny steps, and celebrate them along with your friend.
    “He seemed in good spirits last time I saw him, have you been trying anything new?”
    “What is her favorite thing to do right now?”
    “I noticed they were doing this last time. Is that a new skill?”

    Ask, listen, celebrate. Take a moment to see progress the way they see progress. It may just open your eyes to a whole new beautiful world filled with the most magical of moments.

© 2022 Ashley Lilley – First time commenting? Please read my Comment Policy.

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