A conversation I had with my four-year-old daughter, Olivia, while we watched her brother swim:
There are some people who cannot talk, Mama.
And some who cannot see.
And some who cannot hear.
There are people who cannot walk.
And there are people who cannot move their arms.
(What a surprise that last one was. I have talked to her about any number of differences in people. But I am not sure if I have ever mentioned paralysis. Of course, it only takes Olivia one time to hear something, and she remembers it forever.)
But, mostly, there are people who cannot talk.
(Well, who knows how the numbers stack up? I imagine the number of non-verbal people is far surpassed by those with serious vision and hearing impairments. And I'd guess, too, that there are more people with paralysis than those who are non-verbal. Not really sure, though. And I'd never get into such specifics with a four-year-old. I just wanted to listen to where she was going next. Oh, and she REALLY DOES talk this way. Maybe that isn't all that impressive to those of you who have only typical children, but it is incredibly amazing to me.)
Are the words just locked inside him, Mama?
Yes, baby, they are.
Are they locked really, really down deep? Like behind a gate?
Yes, baby, I think that is a good way to think about it.
But, WHY? Why are they locked up so tight?
(Oh, dear God, nothing ever prepared me for this. Nothing. How do I answer her? Yet the one thing the past year has taught me is there is not a lot of time to think when you come face-to-face with realities for which we have no way to be prepared. You either run away, or you stay and do your best and pray that you don't screw up too badly. So, I gave it my best shot...)
Well, Olivia, I don't know for sure. But, for some reason, Daniel can't get the sounds to come out the way he wants them to. He would like to. And it is really frustrating to him because he can't. Just like it must be frustrating to people who can't see or hear or walk. It isn't fair. And I don't know why it happens. But I know that people who can do those things easily, people like you and me, have a very special job. I believe God wants us to help all the people we meet in our lives like Daniel.
(I don't talk to my daughter very much about God. Insert Catholic guilt right H-E-R-E. But I do on occasion. And it is instances like these when I am most apt to do so.)
I help Daniel.
Yes, you do, baby. (And in more ways than you can appreciate at your tender age.)
Like, when we are riding in the car, and we pass something, I will say, "Look Daniel, there is a truck. Or there is a tree."
Yes, baby, I hear you talk to him about the things you see. But I think the biggest way you help him is with all the things you do that show him how much you love him. Like when you run after him when you think he is getting too far away from us. And when you give him big hugs and kisses. And when you notice what makes him happy and try to make sure he gets those things.
And you help me, too, Olivia. Every time you make me laugh.
Daniel is so very lucky to have you as a sister, and I am so lucky you are my little girl.
Daniel is my very favorite boy, Mama.
I wish I had a key to unlock that gate.
Me, too, baby. Me too.