I find myself really watching people these days.
I can't pay attention to much else other than my son when he is with me because, as anyone with a nonverbal autistic child can tell you, there are so many things you have to think about while out in public that you don't have a lot of time to take in the scenery.
But when I am out and about by myself, or with just my daughter, or even with my son when I think he is happily occupied and not about to bolt, I am really starting to remember how much I once enjoyed "people watching."
But.... there is a difference now.
Call it age, call it maturity, call it life experience -- I don't know. But I don't see the same things the way I once did.
The middle-aged woman with the ultra-short-shorts and the tattoo on the back of her neck? You go, lady, whatever makes you comfortable.
The young couple who cannot keep their hands off each other while enjoying a warm March afternoon at the local botanical gardens? How sweet. What passion. They are so lucky.
The mother at the Walmart with the toddler and the new baby? Oh, honey, what I wouldn't give to share with you what I just saw as I saw it. Your sweet little boy just stood up in the grocery cart -- yes, a risky move given the chance of falling and all, but, whatever -- and he leaned over that infant car seat and kissed your new baby girl on her forehead. Do you know what an AWESOME miracle that is???
I watched a little boy today climbing at the park. He looked about three. He was gorgeous. He climbed all the way to the top of that rope structure -- a very tall structure that still makes me nervous when my son sits atop it -- and yelled down to his grandparents.
Three or four years ago, I would have been so envious. With every single word the boy said I would have wondered "why." Why does this child speak and mine does not? Surely his mother didn't do much differently? I took my vitamins. I didn't drink. I didn't smoke. I didn't even gain a whole lot of weight. I wonder if she ate tuna fish. Did she gas her own car? Because I always was putting gas in my car. Did she have her clothes dry cleaned? Because that was back in the day when I actually dressed in real clothes -- suits dry cleaned and pressed for the life of a young lawyer. Did she exercise during her pregnancy? Because maybe I exercised too much. Maybe I got my heart rate up too high for too long. Was she ever incredibly sick during her pregnancy? Because I ALWAYS will wonder about that horrible case of food-poisoning when I was not even two-months along.
But I didn't think any of those things today when I watched that little boy at the park. I don't think of them much at all, really. Just occasionally when I think back to how sad and worried I was back then. How depressed must I have been to actually look at people with their "normal" children and envy?
But I did. Now, I just wish I could tell them. Tell them all the wonderful things -- the teeny, tiny little things -- they have to cherish.
I glanced from the playground to the parking lot and saw a mom getting out of the car with a very new baby. If she could read my thoughts. Woman, cherish that baby -- right now, every single second. I just assume you don't currently have any worries other than the ordinary -- is he eating enough, will he sleep for a while tonight? And, if so, lady, remember every single day. Because you will never get these days back. They are perfect. Honestly, they are they closest thing to perfection you will ever know.
I mean that because I remember just how perfect I thought my life was when I held my first-born, when I lifted him from the crib each morning and saw how his face lit-up to see mine. What could be more perfect? It was, indeed, perfection, and I always will remember it that way.
And, yet, I also know that life doesn't have to come close to the way you once imagined it in order to be wonderful.
It was not a lesson learned overnight.
I can remember a few people telling me that back in the day -- back in the day of my dark despair and sadness. I needed to hear it; I wanted to believe it. Heck, I wanted to embrace it. But I couldn't.
It is not a switch you can just turn on.
These days, as I people-watch, I really notice the families who have children with disabilities. How much did I ever notice them before? Surely I did, didn't I? I especially notice the ones who take every extra step to make sure their children do not miss out on a single opportunity. They lift their children from the wheelchairs to the rollercoasters, they bring along the medical equipment so their children can eat through a feeding tube, they wait out tantrums so that their children can continue having a good time.
I especially notice the couples who are doing it together. What a testament to their devotion, not only to their children, but to each other.
I have had so much change in my life this past year. All of it so very unexpected. I am so glad that I now am finally starting to open my eyes again to the world around me, instead of walking through life in a haze, thinking only of how I will manage to get through the day, and the week, and the month, without the person I had trusted so very much.
I have had to relearn the lesson I learned as my son's mother, and embrace it all over again. But it still holds as true today as it did when I started to accept it as a mother.
Life doesn't have to come anywhere close to perfect to be good.