As I scrolled through my Facebook feed today perusing the usual status updates about baby milestones, culinary successes and shopping parties, I noticed a friend had posted something about her daughter turning 6 years old. It was a celebratory "I-can't-believe-my-baby-is-grown-up" post, complete with adorable pictures. I paused to read, as it sparked my interest since my own daughter will be 6 in just a few short weeks. It was then that a realization hit me. I had a striking moment of clarity where I was reminded that I don't know what a typical 6-year-old is like.
I found myself studying the pictures looking for signs of this little girl's personality:
I looked at what gifts she received. I wondered if she verbally asked for these gifts or if they were things her mommy and daddy just thought she would like.
I scanned the new games and puzzles in front of her. I wondered if she was able to play them without constant parental assistance.
I examined her body language. I wondered what kind of prompts, if any, it took for her to pose for the photos.
I admired the elaborate, Pinterest-inspired decorations that were set up, and I wondered if she could read the "happy birthday" sentiment postered to her bedroom door.
My daughter with special needs is my oldest child, so I have no real means of comparison as a mother. She is my first. Her first smile, her first word, and her first steps were all my firsts as a mother. I know that all of these milestones were met significantly later than what is considered typical, but that is the "typical" that I know. Sure, I see other children in day-to-day interactions, but it is not the same as watching a child grow and develop under your care.
This year my sweet girl has started kindergarten. I often question how she is fitting in. I understand and am very aware that she has delays in many areas, but do the other kids notice? Does my child stick out in a crowd or does she blend in with the others? How far off from the norm is she? These are the questions that I need help with and rely on her teachers and others to answer for me.
At times, this can all become overwhelming and difficult. Not knowing what the future holds for my daughter can be scary. Will she catch up to her peers? Will she find her own social group? Will she feel different or left out? I sometimes think about what it would be like if she were typically developing. Would things be easier and less stressful for all of us? Probably. But you know what? I would not change a thing. Really.
Along with her special needs, my daughter was born with a beautiful light that is beyond compare. Truly, it is something innate in her and nothing I can take credit for. She is the happiest little girl and spreads her sunshine wherever she goes. She brightens our world every day. There is something amazingly special about her, beyond just her needs.
So, yes, things like the birthday Facebook post that I read today do remind me that I don't know "typical" when it comes to watching my daughter grow. However, it also reminds me that I am glad I don't. If she were "typical" she wouldn't be the wonderful little person that she is, and I am thankful everyday that this is our normal.
This article was originally published on Her View From Home.