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My daughter Temira, age 10, frequently makes comments that are both wise beyond her years and highly amusing. Last week she said "Imma, why do the single girls we know always say they want a cute guy. They should just marry someone like Abba - he is just average - not good looking not bad looking but a great father and good husband." Needless to say this quote, when I posted on Facebook, received a huge amount of viral coverage because her comment is true not just for dating but so many areas of our lives.
I can think of no situation that better defines this than having a special needs child. My brother was visiting from South Africa and we were having a deep and meaningful discussion about the impact Caily has on her siblings. Some of it is good, some hard but in reality they are just average siblings. There is no doubt Caily takes away some precious time from their siblings, or that she is a charmer and steals the lime light. My other kids sometimes bear a burden of a sister with different needs. I can think of many examples such as the times when Caily, who had been potty trained for a long time but got a fright just as the kids were getting in car pool and had an accident or the time she ran away from car pool line hid away at school and no-one could find her. Yes these are stressful moments that their peers with regularly-developing, similar age siblings do not deal with.
I also see Meron’s maturity when dealing with a child who was bullied at school. Without telling me this child was having challenges he asked if this kid could come for Shabbat. A few weeks later when I asked him why he was no longer friendly with two other kids in his grade, he said that they were the “ in boys” and they are horrible to the child being bullied. He therefore chose not to be friends with this in-crowd. This is a very brave decision for an 11 year old to give up your spot in the “in” crowd so that you can do what is right. Having a sister with special needs no doubt made this neshama a little more sensitive.
Caily had her graduation party for Kindergarten yesterday. Yes she has challenges and a very long list of challenges at that. But when I look back on the year and see how much she has grown and achieved it is simply amazing. We have her in a highly academic school environment and she has learned and blossomed and at the same time she developed a great deal of self-awareness of her situation. At the same time she has also struggled in many areas. I am quite sure if Caily could articulate she would say “In my class I am not good, I am not bad, I’m just an average kid but I am happy and I know I bring joy to this world.”
We spend so many hours analyzing how to improve things, how to change what bothers us, how to make the impossible happen. Maybe the lesson from Temira and Caily is that we have to look at situations that may be average and see the beauty in them.
PS: for the record I don’t think Gavin is just average………