I would lace up the pink satin ribbons on my shoes, stand on the points of my toes, and gliding through the room, I could find happiness to the rhythm of a familiar tune. In the midst of a chaotic life, I found order and grace. I wasn’t the very best dancer, but from the age of two years old through college, the dancing bar and stage were consistent fixtures in my life. Dancing was part of life, it was an outlet, and I loved it.
So, I bought the cute little ballerina bag with the toe shoes painted on the side of it, the tights, the leotard, and the shoes. I dressed my precious daughter in her dance clothes and fix her hair in a perfect ballerina bun. I couldn’t wait to share dance with her. I just knew she would fall in love. I pictured this being her “thing” with dance recitals and costumes for the next fifteen years at least.
She was good….really good. I was so proud of my precious ballerina. However, I began to notice that she grumbled a little each time we pulled up for practice. Her enthusiasm dwindled quickly. She didn’t like the itchy tights, the tight leotards, and much preferred to make up her own dance moves to her own music. I recall a conversation where I said “Grace, you cannot quit, you made a commitment and we have to honor our commitments” to which she replied “But Momma, I don’t even know how to say that word!”
We finished out our dance year with a wonderful recital. Despite her excitement for the costumes and show, she sweetly declared “I do not think dancing is for me.” Fair enough. We had tried. We kissed dancing goodbye.
So, what next? We went through the list. Would you like to take piano lessons? Guitar lessons? What about a sport? Soccer? T-ball?
“Momma, if it’s ok, I think I would just like to be an ordinary kid. Can I come home from school and just be me?”
“Umm, yes, yes I think that would be just fine.” …Ouch!
You see, I was trying to find something that would be just for Grace. Our home is a revolving door of therapists and help for our son. Much time and attention is devoted to his care. As the parent of a special needs child, it is a struggle to balance equal time and attention between a child that requires “more” and a “neurotypical” child. I wanted to make sure that Grace had an opportunity to have fun and to have a special time of her own.
I had to check myself. First, I never want to mistake activity for quality time. Second, I never want to allow myself to be pushed into the world’s mold of constant motion. Although extracurricular activities can present wonderful opportunities for kids, there is no “parent code” that declares you a bad parent if your child does not participate in a bazillion (or even one) extracurricular activities. My sweet daughter had reminded me of the value of slowing down and to “just be.”
I did however, want to make sure that I reserved some time aside just for Grace. My solution: Mommy Mondays! In place of a “thing”, class, or skill, I have made Grace my “thing” every Monday afternoon. It’s nothing spectacular, but its special time set aside for just the two of us to share some ice cream, talk about the day, or play together uninterrupted. I have tried to be intentional during this time about reaffirming to her who she is in Christ. This time has become so special and I am so thankful Grace chose to “just be” this school year.
I want both of my children to feel celebrated for exactly who God created them to be. Too many times parents place their child’s future within the confines of worldly expectations, based on parental interests (I was a football superstar and you will be too. Or I loved dance and so you should too), and influenced by social advancement.
I have struggled from time to time in “letting go” of my son’s future. Because he has Autism, I have no idea what the future holds for him. I have had to look reality head on with the understanding that he may live with us forever, he may or may not hold a job, he may or may not ever get married or even be able to speak in complete sentences. I pray for a breakthrough. I pray for the bondage of Autism to be broken. At the same time, I celebrate who he is, just the way he is. I cannot make comparisons but rather embrace his precious personality and rejoice in even the smallest of his accomplishments. Having a special needs child has allowed me to understand the importance of celebrating a child’s individuality.
Who knows what Grace may choose to become, how her interests may change over time, or what she will want to do with her time in years to come. For now, my sweet girl wants to “just be” with her mommy. I am thankful. We will celebrate this season.
Grace may never grace the stage with pink point shoes and a sparkling tutu, and that’s just fine. But we will dance together through this journey called life. We will celebrate every accomplishment, find joy in the good, pray through the tough, and “just be” so as not to get lost in the every-day-hustle of life’s demands.