This summer we went to Morgans Wonderland. In case you’re not familiar with the place, Morgans Wonderland is an inclusive amusement park designed for folks with disabilities. We went specifically to check out their new water park, and everyone had a good time.
I had one experience there that will stay with me for a long time. Dom and I were over in one area of the park walking through some sprinklers and we happened to walk by a mom wheeling her daughter (who had some varying level of paralysis) through the same water features. The child didn’t seem to be reacting to the water all that much…and at one point the mom looked over at me, smiled, and said “I don’t know whether she’s enjoying this”
Its hard for me to define or describe the tone in which she said it…because on the surface that seems like a bit of a downer statement…but it was said with so much hope, and so much dedication, and so much love. The follow up to “I don’t know whether she’s enjoying this” was an implied awkward “I want so bad for her to enjoy this…and I’m going to keep trying things she might enjoy”. There was so much effort in what she was doing.
I think about that often, and I think about it especially around this time of year. Buying Christmas presents for Dom isn’t easy. It involves a lot of thought about what he likes doing, and how we can get him things that will engage him both cognitively and in a sensory capacity. We look around at therapy equipment, we look at his functional capabilities…we do our best and all of it is done with that same sense of hopeful “I don’t know whether he’s going to enjoy this” mentality.
Sometimes we miss. But sometimes we nail it. We had a rubber inflatable donkey we bought when he was a baby….we figured it would be something he could rest against and climb on as he tried to figure out the whole gross motor skill thing. And he absolutely adored the donkey (lovingly named “ponkey donkey” by his nonnie). We nailed that one. And nothing feels better than to get him something he loves.
Christmas and birthdays are hard. Heck they’re hard for any parent of any kid. But implied within that continuous “I don’t know if they’ll enjoy this” part of buying presents is a deep sense of resilient hope…that even if they don’t enjoy this, we’ll work tirelessly until we find that thing that they enjoy. And then we’ll sit back and revel in their enjoyment.
“I don’t know if she’s enjoying this” is a statement that will be in my mind for a long long time.