Thursday, February 4, 2010
This post written by Greg Bandler, Toronto, ON. Excerpt from "The IDEAL WAY to Cook: Food for Thought."
For many people, the label "special needs" signals a person who requires special concessions - big and small. But the "label definition" is often quite different for the parents, siblings, family members and close friends of "special needs" kids. Quite simply, the label should be shortened to a single word: "special". Certainly an applicable description for our son, Michael, now age 20.
We have special times with our Michael on a daily basis. It's wonderful to enjoy and experience life through his particular lenses and filters. He and I recently took in our first Toronto FC soccer game together at the BMO Field on the CNE grounds. I was graciously extended tickets at the last minute, possibly because the ticket holder confirmed that the weather forecast of a cold and wet Thursday night appeared accurate. No matter. I advised Michael to get ready and dress warmly - we were off to the soccer game. He brought the enthusiasm and anxiety of a five year old - so prevalent in our extremely social and kind-hearted special child. We endured the most horrendous traffic jam - a Toronto traffic jam of epic proportions! - to arrive in time for the opening kick-off...of the second half...Even so, our spirits were not dampened.
The game was fast moving. The home team enjoyed a one-nil advantage and defended strongly throughout the second half. It was interesting to see how Michael pointed out other special people in the crowd immediately upon sitting down. Dad, look at the guy three rows down - he looks drunk - has he been drinking? Dad, why did that guy hurl a red streamer at the player who was on the sideline doing a throw-in? He shouldn't do that - why did he do that? Dad, why are all those people standing in the end zone singing and acting rowdy - should they be doing that in a public place? Of course, none of the questions were posed at the socially accepted "whisper level". No, they were posed at full audible volume for anyone within earshot to ponder.
After the game, we returned to our van in the parking lot, staying dry and warm. We waited to chauffeur Michael's 16-year-old sister and her friends home from the concert they were attending at Ontario Place. In the end, we had a two-hour wait, but it zipped by in what felt like minutes. We did some people watching. We decided to walk a bit to see if we could hear the music at the outdoor concert more clearly. We had a hot dog from the street vendor. Based on the number of dogs he would soon sell from his BBQ, we calculated he must live in a mansion! We chatted and listened to music on the van radio.
Michael reinforced his special place in my heart with the simple phrase, "Thanks, Dad. I love spending time with you. Can we do this again?" We listened to more music. And we people watched more. We were in our own special world. So much so that I hadn't noticed the van's battery drain with the lights and radio on. We needed a boost, albeit not in an emotional sense. It had been a special night - from start to finish - despite the traffic, despite the rain and cold, despite the wait, or perhaps, because of the wait.
Enjoying our children for who they are and experiencing life through their special lenses and filters is indeed a privilege and a reminder of just what "special" truly means.
Our kids are indeed special...every day...and in every way!