Park Friends

As I have admitted numerous times in this blog, being a parent is the hardest journey I have ever been on. And, about 87% of the time, I feel like I am completely failing at it. But every once in a while, one of my children will do something that knocks me into that 13% of the time where I feel as if, perhaps, I’m not quite as bad at raising them as I think I am. Or, more likely, they are just truly amazing human beings.

Early Sunday afternoon while D was busting his tail doing yard work, the kids and I snuck off to go play at the park. Lee, being the social butterfly that he is, spoke to everyone we saw. Evie (with me in tow), anxious to do whatever Lee was doing, followed him closely and watched everything he did and everything he said. After introducing himself to at least twelve kids and flirting with a girl who ignored his attentions, Lee noticed a little boy on the swings wearing a “Bluey” t-shirt.

For those of you who don’t know, Bluey is a show on Disney about an Australian family of Blue Heelers who talk and play and do everything else you would expect animals to do on animated Disney shows. Bluey is the main character, and is the pre-school aged older sister of Bingo.

Upon seeing this boys shirt, Lee pointed it out to me. I told him I thought it was pretty cool too. We moved on to the slides and, a few minutes later, while waiting for Lee at the bottom of a slide, the boy in the Bluey shirt and his grandmother began walking towards where we were standing. When Lee emerged from the slide and saw the boy, he got very excited. Not one to understand personal space, he reached out and clasped the boys elbow and exclaimed, “Hey friend, I love your shirt! I love Bluey so much! Is Bluey your favorite too?”

The boy was looking at the ground and continued to stare downwards.

Unsure of whether or not Lee was upsetting him, I smiled at his grandmother and said something nonchalant about the pretty weather. She nodded at me politely, but never took her eyes off the boys.

Normally, and especially lately, if someone Lee’s age doesn’t acknowledge him or actively participate in their interaction, Lee will get his feelings hurt and overreact to the situation. I was hoping that this wouldn’t be the case, but I’m never sure how he will handle things (see previous post ha!).

And then, Lee being the empathetic, intuitive child that he is, knelt down onto one knee, still holding the boys elbow and looked up into his face while he said, “Because we both think Bluey is really cool, we should probably be best friends. Do you want to be my best friend?”

For the first time, the boy lifted his head and looked at Lee with the biggest smile on his face. It was only at this point that I realized, the sweet boy had Down Syndrome. He did not say a word, simply nodded, teeth showing through his angelic, wide smile, and Lee yelled, “Hey that’s great! I’m gonna go down this slide again best friend, I’ll see you around!” and ran back up the steps.

The boy’s grandmother put a hand on my shoulder, squeezed, and looked me straight in the eye while she said, “Thank you sweetie,” and then ushered the boy over to the little wooden village.

She had no reason to thank me, and if I hadn’t been holding my breath, I would have told her so.

Every time Lee saw him in passing, he would yell out to him, “Hey best friend, I’m going to the monkey bars!”

“Hey best friend, you’re swinging so high!!”

“Hey best friend, me and my sister are going to the slides again!”

I’m telling you this story because I keep replaying it in my mind, running it over and over. And while I don’t think that Lee noticed the boy was different than him, I do know that he felt that the boy needed a touch more care than the other kids he was interacting with. To watch him, show that love, I just.. I can’t seem to put into words how it made me feel.

Watching a child show kindness, especially with everything happening in our world right now, for no reason other than to show kindness, is something really very special.

And something we could all use a refresher lesson in.

xxx A

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