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This summer I set up a pool in the front yard to keep the boys occupied. Of course, a favorite pastime of Daniel (my 6-year-old with Down syndrome) quickly became finding ways to sneak out of the house, get completely naked, and blissfully swim in the nude before his brothers or I could interrupt his leisurely fun.
Thankfully we have very loving and understanding neighbors. However, nothing could have prepared me (or them, I am sure) for the time Daniel decided to cut his skinny-dip short to break into the neighbor’s house.
One afternoon upon noticing Daniel was missing, I popped my head out the door and was not surprised to see the telltale pile of clothes by the pool. I calmly went out to retrieve him, but he was gone. I quickly surveyed the situation and pretty immediately noticed he was across the street pressing his body up against the neighbor’s floor-to-ceiling picture window while peeking inside.
“Daniel! DANIEL, BABY! Come here, honey!” I tried sounding calm, because, like I've said before, he’s a runner.
As I started to come after him, he decided to make a break for it. He went to the door directly to the right and started to jiggle the handle. “Oh, Lord. I hope they aren’t home and they locked it.” We were going straight from indecent exposure to breaking and entering.
I ran. The moment I got to the driveway our neighbor Duane opened the door, saying “Hey, buddy.”
I grabbed Daniel and apologized profusely, and Duane of course said it was no big deal. But, I couldn’t help but noticed the large smear on our neighbor’s perfectly polished window from Daniel’s wet and naked body. I was so humiliated. If I'm honest, I still kind of am.
I recently shared a couple other stories like these and was immediately contacted by a friend of mine from high school who now also has a son with special needs. We talked about the times when people see our children when they are not at their best, when they are anything other than charming and adorable.
“I just wanted to let you know when I see your posts I can’t help but read them and cry... It felt like for the longest time no one else understood what I was dealing with…The looks I get when my son is having a meltdown are the worst. It makes me feel like I am doing something wrong as a parent, but [deep down] I know I am doing what he needs me to.”
Her confession that I had made her cry, made me cry.
And, I know I’m not alone in this. We special-needs moms cry for everything. We cry because we are proud, because we are frustrated, because we are embarrassed, we cry because we are misunderstood, and we even cry when we are finally understood.
It’s to be expected. Just give us a moment and we will get our emotions under control – eventually, hopefully.
Photos: Whitney Barthel
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.