As the saying goes, the first step is often the hardest. And, true enough, I found myself over-analyzing this “first” post for the new and improved SpecialParent. “But it’s the first post,” I told myself. “It should be extra special.”
Maybe. Or maybe not. It’s a post just like every post. But more importantly, it’s a post to get the ball rolling. And, truth be told, it’s really not the first post since there were a few earlier versions of SpecialParent.
And so, to make things a little easier on myself, I am going to post an old post from one of these earlier versions.
It Won’t Be the Last Time
I am surprised, actually, that it’s taken this long. I am not a pessimist. However, that said, there is no shortage of thoughtless or downright mean-spirited people on this planet. So it surprised me that it has taken this long for someone to make an inappropriate comment regarding my daughter. It all started with a cat.
I am the not-so-proud owner of three cats. They seemed like a great idea before my wife and I had children and a house that we cared about. These days, it one is not vomiting on the floor, another one is scratching a couch and, little by little, they seem to be driving us mad.
So, here we were. It was Saturday morning and I was looking forward to the day. Suddenly, we notice our youngest cat limping due to a wound on its back leg. It appeared that it was bitten by something….probably another cat. After several phone calls, I was at a Cat Hospital with the cat along with my two daughters since my wife had a bridal shower to go to.
Our appointment was for twelve noon. Unfortunately, we were forced to wait necarly 1 1/2 hours in the waiting room. The kids were great. But, kids are kids and little by little their patience started waning.
My daughter Ava is developmentally delayed and is essentially non-verbal due to severe speech apraxia. Due to her size, most people assume that she can speak and will naturally and innocently ask her questions such as “How old are you? What’s your name?” I then gently tell them that she has great difficulty speaking but that she can sign. Most people typically show either empathy, discomfort, or a combination of both.
On Saturday, Ava was making her usual sounds “ahhh…ahhh…..ahhh…” while pointing at a middle-aged man sitting in the waiting room.
He responded, ‘I don’t understand baby talk, kid. You have to speak. Don’t be shy. Speak up.”
It was an innocent mistake. Slightly perturbed, I responded, “She can’t speak.”
“Why not? She doesn’t want to?”
“No. She wants to. She just can’t.”
I could tell he felt bad. And then, I felt bad for him because I can imagine how he felt. He said he was sorry and stumbled over the right words. I reassured him by telling him that it was ok and that he need not apologize. After he received his cat and paid his bill he approached me and apologized again. Again, I told him that it was ok.
“It’s alright, man. Don’t sweat it. Seriously. It’s ok.”
The funny thing is that I felt bad and slightly saddened for him. He wasn’t mean-spirited. A little thoughtless, perhaps. But, it was an innocent mistake. And so, I let it drop.
A short while later, the receptionist asked, “How old is she?!” I responded by saying “She is nearly 4 but she has difficulty speaking due to a condition called speech apraxia. She also has cognitive delays.”
She responded, “Oh… I was wondering. Because she looks so big!”
Yep. You got that right. She’s big for a little girl who should be speaking and who should be acting like other 4 year olds. Welcome to my world, kid.
As I left the vet a short while later, I thought to myself, “This is the first time that I’ve had this sort of experience but it surely won’t be the last. Toughen up and get used to it.”
Note: At the time of this writing, I had three cats. Three cats has become two as one recently succumbed to thyroid disease.