Monday, October 24, 2011

Side By Side

Good friends, Patrick and Daniel at 6th grade camp.

The other day, I was on a mad dash to Target.  As I was driving in the parking lot, an old lady, spry and remarkably quick zipped across oncoming traffic to get to the other side.  Following behind her, WAY behind her, still on the other side of the parking lot was her hunched over husband.  He was slow moving, and clearly the anchor weighing down the speedboat.  It was painful to watch him try and keep up.  Impossible not to notice his resignation and his sadness at being left in the dust. I wanted to get out of my car and tell that mean old bitty a thing or two.  But pausing long enough not to hit him and forced to take the time to watch him cross the street like some slow moving snail made me feel a compassion for both of them.  It must be hard always ready and perpetually waiting.  It must be just as hard to be the one always trying to keep up.  It was then that I said out loud with nobody in the car to hear: "Why can't we all just be side by side holding hands?"  

Side by side.  What a lovely thought.  Nobody rushing.  Nobody feeling like they can't keep up.  Nobody tapping a foot in irritation. Just side by side.  Together.

Patrick is forever s-l-o-w moving.  I feel like I am constantly rushing him and forcing him to hurry.  Twelve years down this road and still I haven't learned my lesson.  There is no hurry, Beth.  It all unfolds at the exact right moment.  Some people you can't rush. Some moments you can't rush. It's a tricky balance in a world where speed is adored and adulated.  Rushing and hurrying are the norm -- it's what is expected.  

So living with someone like Patrick is a constant balance.  He indeed knows the right way to live.  He is excellent at giving you undivided attention.  He takes the time to listen.  He affords you the gifts of lingering and cherishing because when you are with him, there is no rush.  I want to be more like him. I want to be able to see a sadness in someone's eyes and find myself taking the time to ask and linger.   I want to live at his pace and stop trying to speed him up.  It's a tug of war between what matters and feels right and what the outside world tells you is important.  Clearly, I'm still learning.

"Always remember that each day as you look at your world and see millions upon millions of flowers opening up, God does it all without using any force." -- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Patrick has two friends at school.  Two real friends, Christopher and Daniel.  I knew he had friends that he played with on the playground but I didn't know until his birthday party in the summer just how close these three are.  They are equal friends...laughing and sharing jokes, running and playing games, sitting and sharing sodas or pizzas or ice cream and enjoying each other's company.  It has been a remarkable thing to watch unfold.  No play date began it.  There were no helicopter moms facilitating it.  Outside of school all three are involved in other activities and rarely run into each other.  It just evolved over time at school and getting to know each other.  Christopher is gentle and kind.  He is someone who loves the underdog and looks out for others.  He's a Boy Scout and a fantastic singer.  His love of music was what first sparked a friendship with Patrick.  He's a natural encourager.  Daniel is a recent immigrant from Cuba.  He has language barriers and difficulty understanding this crazy culture he's been dropped into.  He needs people who aren't rushing to take the time to break through that barrier.  He has an easy going personality and a quick smile.  He's always ready for some fun and a laugh and I know that is what drew Patrick to him.  He's so much larger than Patrick that he often will take on the role of protector and since he knows what it feel like to be an outsider, he's always willing to let people in.  These three together know what it's like to be side by side.  They were cabin mates during a week away at sixth grade camp.  They hiked together and encouraged each other through new experiences and fearful moments.  I try and picture those hikes and I smile.  Patrick must have surely been bringing up the rear but I can imagine both Daniel and Christopher looking out for him, telling him he could do it and encouraging him in such a way that he believed it too.  He hiked to the top of a peak, a first for him, side by side with his friends.

Christopher and Patrick are all smiles!

October is Down Syndrome Awareness month.  All month I've been pondering what to tell you.  What to say that might bring an ounce of hope and optimism to a new mom that has been prenatally diagnosed, or a new mom that is holding her tiny infant and just knows a diagnosis and can't imagine what the future looks like.  All I can tell you is a simple message: side by side is how you get through anything.  It's so much better that way.  Don't rush.  Don't hurry.  Just take the hand of a friend or a loved one, take a deep breath and begin the journey.  The journey is pretty beautiful.

The world may think we need to out-run each other but I've been taught otherwise. 
I'm so grateful to my teacher.


  1. Today, this is exactly what I needed to hear. It filled a deep need in my soul and put to rest many of my sufferings. I am so grateful to my teacher.

  2. I'm not sure exactly what I want to say in response to this wonderful post. This is one of the hardest things for me to grasp. How do kids make true friends? I am thrilled for Patrick, Daniel, and Christopher. They are all lucky to have each other. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you so much for the hope, the realistic hope that you bring in your post. I am new to your blog, but hope to visit more often.

    1. Jacqui...thanks for your comment! I really appreciate the back and forth that is offered with blogs. :) I'd love to hear more about your situation. Using the web, we don't have to recreate the wheel for each situation -- we can piggy back off of each other. Just knowing it's happening somewhere else on the planet gives our convictions more strength. Best of luck! ~Beth

  4. Me,too. I needed to read this. In response to my comment on Louise Kinross' post on the Huffington Post, she put this link. My son is six -- almost seven -- and he's becoming aware of having or not having friends. Your post is reminiscent of the teacher's reply when I asked her about why Gabe would tell me that he is "all by myself" when he eats lunch at school or that he "just watches the kids" at recess. The tug of war between self help skills (Gabe is slow to get ready for recess or for lunch) and supporting the idea of his social life at school is a no-brainer on his IEP. What can a parent reply to that?

    Anyway, thank you for such a beautiful post!

    1. Lianna, I'm so glad you came over here. Thanks for your comment! Has your son been fully included since kindergarten? Is he fully included now? I feel that so many barriers go up once we start segregating kids and separating them at key developmental times. I agree that the tug of war seems like a no-brainer in an IEP and that everyone should figure out how to make lunch successful for your son. This might mean sending him over five minutes early with another student from the class to get him settled and going on lunch. This could be a class job and a great way to get to know your son, one-on-one. Fully inclusive schools think creatively and prioritize. These schools aren't afraid to think outside of the box and are willing to change the status quo. I'd love to brainstorm with you some can happen for you son. I believe it with my whole heart! ~Beth