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Challenge: Kids with Special Needs

A letter to the mom in the dressing room next to me

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A letter to the mom in the dressing room next to me...

Today we both had a special day, shopping for prom dresses with our senior daughters. Maybe it was rude, but I couldn't help but listen in on your conversation.

I heard you and your daughter laughing. I could hear the love in your voice when you teased her about the slit in the dress being a little too high and the neckline being a little too low. I heard her call you mom, but I knew you were more like friends. I could even hear your, oh so subtle, gasp when she walked out in that form fitting black dress covered with sequins. I'm not surprised... I think I gasped too. She looked incredible!

As much as I wish it weren't true, form fitting dresses and round tummies with feeding tubes do not go together. So the dresses we were trying on were big — with loads of tulle! I was crouched on the floor trying to keep my daughter from falling over because her scoliosis keeps her from sitting up straight when she's tired.

I could see you and the proud way you looked at your daughter. I watched you and your daughter through the gap in the curtain. I envied you. I wondered if you ever think about how very lucky you are? You see, even though it was a special day, it was also a very emotional day for me. Another milestone event that I am losing out on. I will admit, shopping during the dinner hour on a Wednesday night was probably not one of my best ideas. While your daughter twirled in front of mirrors, my daughter sat on the floor of the dressing room rubbing her eyes and falling over.

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I put huge ball gown-type dresses over her head, but then I had to attempt to stand her up if I had any chance of getting the back zipped up. I had to keep her towel close by because taffeta is not very forgiving when it comes to drool. I pretended I was having fun both for my daughter's sake and for anyone listening in on our one-sided conversation. If they had any pity for me, surely my over the top excitement and fake smile should dispel any myths.

I narrowed it down to two dresses and, even though I held both dresses up for my daughter to demonstrate her eye gaze skills, she wasn't interested in the least. I picked the white and aqua dress, not because I liked it the best, but because I thought maybe, just maybe, if my daughter could talk, or walk, or use her eye gaze skills, that would be the dress she would choose. I also used my infallible decision making method of eeny, meeny, miney, moe... I figured I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right, unless she didn't like either.

Who knows, maybe she doesn't even want to go to prom. I heard you joking with your daughter about doing extra babysitting jobs to help pay for the dress. As I handed the cashier my credit card, I was more than willing to pay a substantial amount because I reminded myself that I'd never have to buy a wedding dress.

I drove home, fed my daughter, and got her ready for bed. The dress is still in a plastic bag hanging in my van. The dress... another attempt at normalcy. Another reminder of how much has been taken away.

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