Sam: You think what they think.
Rita: It doesn't matter what I think. It matters that we win.
Sam: No, you think what they think. You think Sam can't take care of Lucy!
Rita: Sam, it doesn't matter what I think!
Sam: It matters to me!
[I Am Sam]
The above is a quote from the movie I Am Sam, which I watched for the first time last night in several years.
Of course I work with special education preschoolers, so none of this is new to me. I see it day-to-day, so maybe that's why the above example is why I was stopped in my tracks.
My little preschoolers are at a time when they are starting to really assert their own independence. They ALL need to be validated and supported and loved and trusted. Above all things, these are hugely important and impactful on the entire rest of their future. Now take that and multiply it by thousands and that's the importance it has in the life of a special ed preschooler.
I was thinking about this a lot last night while watching the movie.
It matters that others believe in us and validate us and care that we are people. But my little kiddos that are not the typical-model kiddos need this more than anything else in life. What I think, how I interact with them, MATTERS!!!!
To Ethie, it MATTERS that though his body is not capable of what his mind is capable of, that I treat him like a typical four-year-old and not like he's dumb. He might have a physical disability and not be able to walk and talk. But it matters that I don't treat him like he's incompetent nor a toddler. It MATTERS that I treat him like the four-year-old boy that he is. It MATTERS that we play catch with him, that our activities are modified for his bodily capabilities but not dumbed down as his mind is intact.
It MATTERS to Patrick that I love him and care about him. It matters to Sean that we keep pushing him. It MATTERS to my kiddos. And it will continue to matter their whole lives that people believe in them and validate them as people. As unique, special, charismatic people full of life, love and character.
What this all comes down to is that as people we matter. It does matter that others love us and believe in us and support us. It always matters. And well, to most of my kiddos, it matters more than the average joe as they are facing hurdles that none of us will or ever will face. My little Ethie has encountered more challenges and more hurdles in his short four years of life that I will ever face in my entire lifetime.
Yesterday I went and hit golf balls with Eric at the driving range. I grabbed my jacket and clubs and ran to the car. I carried my clubs and with ease took my jacket on and off. I unwrapped several candies on the way to the golf course and chewed them without any mess. I easily took swigs of water out of my water bottle. I nonchalantly exchanged conversation with Eric the whole ride. We laughed and kissed. We got to the range and I carried my clubs. I whacked golf balls not with what any golfer would call accuracy but with accuracy none-the-less given it was my first time hitting since September. I didn't need any help and easily did all these actions without any hesitance.
Ethan can neither sit, stand, nor walk on his own right now. It takes every ounce of effort for him to throw a ball straight at the ground.....using every muscle in his body to swing his arm. He cannot put on nor take off clothes. He only has a very small verbal vocabulary consisting of "mom, hey, hi, up, out, off, yes, no". He can sign "please, thank you, mine, me, my turn, sorry, more, all done, out, yes, no". His coordination does not him allow to eat without assistance and his fine motor activity is minimal. He could pick up the candy and attempt to eat it but it winds up in a rather large mess.
However, his smile and his laughs and his hugs are worth the world. He's so happy all the time. Why?! Because it matters to him that despite all of this that we care about him, believe in him, and treat him like any other 4-year-old with the exception of physically supporting/helping him.
I will never face those challenges. So why should I not be happy every single second of every day and count my thousands of blessings?! Why should I not take joy in my life, no matter what happens or doesn't happen?!
The above is the reason that I am so happy and so full of life.
Don't get me wrong. I'm naturally a very happy person. But even if I wasn't, my kiddos show me a million reasons why I should love my life and why I should always be happy and why my smartass smile never needs validation for it being across my face. It's simply there because I have so many blessings and reasons to be happy.