What goes through the mind of a little one whose aunt has special needs? At 4, our grandson, Noni’s nephew, made this observation:
“Mommy, when Aunt Jacy babysits, she can watch us by herself.
“And when Uncle Trent babysits, he can watch us by himself too.
“But when Aunt Noni babysits, she has to be with Granny or Papa.
“I think I know why. I think Aunt Noni is the real Wendy, and she lives in Neverland with Peter, and she never grows up. How cool!”
Through the eyes of a child, the real Wendy comes to life.
Noni as Wendy? It's the sweetest description I've ever heard, suits her to a T, and warms my heart. But the inkling never occurred to me, probably because I'm a grown-up.
Grown-ups suffer from educated incapacity. So says my friend Edie Weiner, a leading futurist and author. The older we get, the more we know, and the harder it is to see differently and think inventively.
Can you see Peter Pan nodding?
Only a child or an alien from another planet, according to Weiner, is unencumbered by educated incapacity and free to see what others cannot.
Like the Little Prince. In Antoine de Saint Exupery's classic tale, a young alien prince fallen to Earth observes, “All grown-ups were once children, though few of them remember it.”
I contend that special-needs parents qualify as aliens! We've had considerable practice seeing through alien eyes.
Whatever the condition -- intellectual or physical disability, Down syndrome or autism, blindness or deafness, cerebral palsy or attention deficit, to name just a few -- our kids can be square pegs trying to fit in round holes. We're forced at every turn to be creative.
When your child says with yearning, “I want to do that,” you listen. Under your breath you may mutter, “How the heck are we going to make this work?”
Soon you're running alongside your child on his new roller skates, or riding tandem on a parasail, or listening to her sing karaoke on stage.
For sure, some people think you're nuts. But against all convention, alien eyes with a little help from the heart will see a way to overcome obstacles to a child's happiness.
And along the way, like the Little Prince, you discover a secret, a very simple secret:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”