A small voice broke the silence as I drove. "Mommy, I wanna be a yellow shirt." Before I could say anything, Jeremy continued, "You know, a yellow shirt. A helper for Camp Attitude." Tears rolled down my cheeks as I begin to process what he was telling me. He continued, "I want to help the kids in the wheelchairs. I want to push them around and help with wheelchair races." Somehow, through my tears, I managed to tell him I thought this was his best idea ever.
There is no doubt that Dylan's siblings are exposed to a wide and vast world of special needs. We returned from Camp Attitude several weeks before that. We spent a week around children and adults in wheelchairs, some who are fed through feeding tubes, others who suffer seizures, some who use communication devices, three year old's who use walkers and individuals who have titanium legs (or "robot" legs if you went with Jeremy's description). The kids had attended camp and fully embraced the new individuals they met...wheelchairs and all...but Jeremy caught me completely off guard by what he was telling me.
As a parent, you never know what is going through the mind of your child or what words will escape their lips. Kids are brutally honest. This is the only life that my kids know, yet I think they somehow understand that the world that surrounds them is unique. I want their experiences to leave a positive impression. As a special needs mother, I never know when I might have to take some time to explain a heavy topic with little notice.
Weeks after our camp experience, the kids really had not asked many questions. Greg and Savannah are still very young. We have discussed in depth with Jeremy that all people are created differently but that we were all created by God. Dylan, of course, is oblivious to it all, although I think the "robot" legs made even him take a second glance, which resulted in a "Ooooo, wow!"
There are moments when I worry about my kids and their exposure (or lack of exposure) to various things. For our family, participating in recreational sports is difficult. Little League and nearly all other childhood sports do not fill our Saturdays. It's simply too much for Dylan: the weather, the stimulation...the list goes on and on. We spend more time in controlled, indoor environments: bookstores, libraries and even zoos. It just makes our life a little bit more sane. I would be lying if I didn't tell you that it disappoints me that we don't participate in youth sports. This may not always be the case and I am already beginning to see changes within our family dynamic that may make it possible to do things we haven't been able to do in the past. Only time will tell what the future holds for Dylan and his siblings.
A few days after Jeremy's "yellow shirt" announcement, he did something that amazed me. I never know what to expect when he says, "Mommy, look!" Nine out of ten times he blows my mind. I turned to see Savannah sitting on a small rocking chair. Jeremy had placed the chair on top of a Mickey Mouse Airplane Ride-On toy! It was a "flying wheelchair". Jeremy had come to realize, in his own way, that kids in wheelchairs are often looked at as "uncool". He said, "Mommy, it's a flying wheelchair! I can make flying wheelchairs, like the flying cars, when I grow up, so that the kids in wheelchairs will be COOL!"
Jeremy is my artist, thinker, day-dreamer and little inventor. We all have natural abilities and strengths. There are most-certainly negatives and positives to growing up with a sibling who has special needs. When I look at Jeremy, I see a little boy with a great big heart who sees those like his big brother as God sees them - no different than everyone else in this world.