a child’s laughter

Yesterday, I unexpectedly picked up my daughter from school.  She typically rides the bus, and this was the first time in a very long time that I had been inside her classroom during normal class hours.  The teachers were just grouping up the kids to go out to the buses when I came in, and, as I was supposed to have a brief meeting with my child’s teacher, I waited with her in the classroom while they walked outside.

My daughter didn’t notice when I walked in.  She has, among her other disabilities and impairments, a significant visual impairment, so I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t see me come in.  As I approached her, I called her name.  She looked up in front of her, startled, and a look of confusion crept over her face.  I repeated her name, and the confusion melted into an enormous grin.  She quickly stood up and began shuffling around the edge of the table, trying to get to me.  As she drew close, she looked up toward me for the first time, and she looked into my face, and she laughed.  She reached up to me.  She was happy to see me.

This seems… so simple.  I know.  Believe me, I know!  But when your child is school aged and has only shown joy at seeing you once or twice in their lifetime…  It’s a beautiful moment, a memory to cherish.  And it’s a sign that she’s learning, growing, and developing. It’s a ray of hope.  It’s EVERYTHING.

Today, due to an unfortunate alarm clock mishap, I found myself taking her to school myself instead of putting her on the bus.  This was the very first time I had ever brought her to school, and I walked in tentatively, but as we got close to her classroom door, her tiny hand tightened on mine, and she began pulling.  She grinned and walked faster and faster until we reached the room, where she dropped my hand suddenly and laughed.  She was delighted to be there!  She looked around the room, from child to child, and her laughter rang out like a song.  Then she noticed a little boy with crayons, and she quickly made her way to the bucket of crayons and sat down to color.  She didn’t stop laughing the entire time I stood there.

My child isn’t like most children.  She doesn’t distinguish much between people beyond “mom” and “not mom”.  She will happily go with strangers.  She will walk out in front of cars because she doesn’t perceive danger.  She will reach for a hot pan on the stove because she doesn’t understand the concepts of “hot” or “no,” and because she doesn’t feel pain.  Despite being much older than two, she is just now reaching the “terrible twos” developmental stage where she has finally learned to have her own opinions, to defy, to test boundaries, and that there are things she isn’t supposed to do–and that it’s funny to do them!  She has never said “mommy” or “daddy,” and she can’t say “I love you.”  She doesn’t know the words for milk or tired or hug or food.  Doctors don’t have a term for her unique array of medical complications, and no one can predict what she may or may not be able to do in the years to come…  Or even how many years to come there might be.  We don’t know if she is likely to have a typical lifespan or if there’s some underlying genetic condition that might cause her body to fail at ten.  We don’t know if she’ll ever speak or understand language, if she’ll ever dress herself or climb stairs without a handrail or be able to write her name…  We just don’t know anything.

But when she laughs…  That’s when I get the only information I need:  she’s happy–right now.  Let tomorrow be what it will be, and let her laugh today.

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