In many ways, my little girl meets the definition of vulnerable. A not-yet-seven year old girl with Autism and ADHD. She’s no longer young enough for us parents to continue to be her shadow, following her every move and ready to catch her when she falls. She’s too capable to constantly have safety at arm’s length. Yet, with her special needs, she doesn’t have the same capabilities of many of her peers. She needs more. Striking that balance can feel daunting.
We worry for her, a lot. Yet, I’m begin to question whether there’s anything to really be worried about. I find myself often thanking others for their kindness to her. I thank her teachers, her paras, her camp counselors, even the beautiful fellow Meridenite who taught her Spanish as we waited for the fireworks to start. Each time I thank someone for indulging my daughter and her needs, however, I get some version of:
“No need to thank me, the pleasure is all mine.”
“These are the kids we remember, we grow more from them than they do from us.”
“I did nothing, she just let me see her.”
My daughter does have a way of worming herself into every heart. She is truly an easy girl to love, but it’s not (only) over-the-top cuteness that brings out these responses. My daughter taps into the part of us that genuinely wants to be there. She touches the piece of you with something to give, and somehow, in that moment, there’s nothing more you want to do than give it: patience, understanding, compassion, a life lesson, a hug, your heart.
I often think it’s a gift she has. Then I wonder if the gift might be yours. Perhaps, it’s even a gift you share with each other. I see your face light up, your spirit shine through, the joy fill your lines and wrinkles and eyes as you pass a piece of yourself to this little girl. You both are better for this encounter. It’s humbling.
Once, I thanked my very greatest of mentors for her time, love, and patience when I was struggling and needed her a little more than normal. After her very gracious “you’re welcome,” she shared this with me:
“To the Hawaiians there was no difference–giver and receiver were the same, so the correct word to say was the same for both: Mahalo. Something going on between us. You are happy with receiving and I am happy with your receiving, which feels like a gift to me. Mahalo.”–Barry Stevens
I remember being wowed by the words, but also doubtful of the sentiment. How can it be possible that my needy could be a gift to you? I had to simply trust she was telling me the truth, but until I saw it in those around my daughter, I’m not sure I truly understood. My daughter’s vulnerability is hard for me to accept as an uber-protective mom. Yet, her willingness to put herself into life full throttle day after day takes such courage that she inspires me. Witnessing her daring makes me a better person. She can’t do that without help, and she is so blessed to have a fleet of supporters who are more than willing to be there. She puts her need and heart on the line, and counts on you, every day.
Every day, you step up. In your giving you receive.
Thank you. Mahalo.