As I pulled up to the school to pick the girls up I immediately noticed that Hope’s neck was crooked. What in the world happened? She was fine when I put her on the school bus this morning. At 8:40 she was in the nurse’s office with a compress on her neck. She told them that mommy knew about her stiff neck. And she was laughing about her head being crooked so they didn’t call me. She told me her elbow hurt before she got on the bus. Elbow. Neck. Pretty much the same thing.
I could tell she was in a lot of pain. She cringed as I helped her change her shirt. I told Brett that I knew what it was but I couldn’t fix it. He asked me what it was. I told him that it’s called acute torticollis. He seemed rather impressed with my knowledge and that I had just diagnosed our child. Hey, I worked for a chiropractor 20 years ago. I still remember stuff.
I called the chiropractor and made an appointment. Brett took Hope to the appointment and I stayed home with Mikayla. When he got home he said “You were right. The doctor said it’s whatever that word was that you said it was.” The doctor had massaged and stretched the muscles in her neck and she had handled it very well. Her neck was still crooked. It was going to take some time for her to return to normal.
That evening I went to my parent-teacher conference at Mikayla and Hope’s school. As soon as I sat down their teacher asked me how Hope was. I told her that Brett had taken her to the chiropractor but she was still about the same. She said that the girls aide had put her hand on Hope’s shoulder when she was helping her with her work. Hope looked up at her and said “Do it again and I’ll hit you!” I laughed myself silly over that story. And the aide and teacher had a good laugh over it too.
Now obviously I don’t want my girls hitting their aide. But that isn’t really the point of this story. There are a couple of huge successes wrapped up in Hope’s sentence. First, she did an excellent job communicating her feelings. I’ve spent years wondering what she was thinking and feeling. At this exact moment in time there was no question what she was thinking or feeling. She was feeling pain and she didn’t want to be touched. She clearly told those around her that they needed to not touch her. The second success is that she showed self-control. She didn’t swat the aide’s hand to let her know that she needed to not touch her. She chose to use words and she kept her hands to herself. This is great progress. Now we just need to work on using nicer words. “Please don’t touch me. It hurts.” is more polite than “Do it again and I’ll hit you!” It’s not as funny but it is polite.
Each little step of progress is important. Each little step takes time. Sometimes the little steps make us cry. And sometimes they make us laugh. I’m thankful for those moments of laughter. I’m thankful for people who choose to laugh with me. And I’m thankful for little girls who teach me that those seemingly small moments in life are actually big moments.
Facebook. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love that I feel connected to the outside world when I can’t actually get out into the world. I enjoy seeing pictures of sweet little boys and girls who’ve lost their first tooth. I love seeing all the pictures of families at Christmas. And Facebook is one of my favorite things on the planet when someone posts something that makes me laugh on a really tough day. But then there’s the other side of Facebook that I hate. I don’t enjoy people arguing about the current or former President. People share the best parts of their life and I compare it to the worst parts of mine. And I find myself feeling empty and less than. And then there are the pictures of little girls at birthday parties. You would think I would enjoy those pictures but they’ve always made my heart ache. I’ve carried a secret around for 11 years that has hurt too much to talk about. Mikayla and Hope have never been invited to a birthday party. I’ve waited for years for them to have a friend. And last year I celebrated as I watched two sweet girls from church befriend Mikayla and Hope. My dream for them to have a friend came true and I began to believe that other dreams I have for them can also come true. Maybe someday they’ll be invited to a birthday party. That would be amazing.
I was driving to church one Wednesday night in January. Life was beating me up and I was feeling pretty hopeless. I parked the van and the girls started jumping out. I told our older girls, Taylor and Brynna, that I needed a moment to myself and asked if they would take Mikayla & Hope to class. I looked up to heaven and I said a desperate one sentence prayer. God, would you put someone in my path tonight who will speak something that will give me hope?
The very first person I ran into was Amanda. She told me that her daughter, Katelyn, wanted to invite Mikayla and Hope to her birthday party. The party wouldn’t be until March but Katelyn was already making plans. Amanda was telling me that Katelyn wanted to have the party at a children’s museum. And then I burst into tears. Is this really happening? 11 years of waiting and my girls are finally going to be invited to a birthday party. I began to explain to Amanda the reason for all my tears. I told her that Mikayla and Hope had never been invited to a birthday party. And that I had never told anyone because I didn’t want to be the one to make it happen. I could’ve went around to other moms and complained or cried about my girls never being invited to a party. And someone would’ve felt sorry for them and invited them. But this was happening simply because they were loved and wanted. I had asked God to send me someone to speak something that would give me hope. And He answered my prayer within only a few minutes. My girls finally being invited to a birthday party renewed my hope. God cares about every detail of our lives. Even the little details that no one else knows about.
I’ll never forget the day that Katelyn handed me the invitation to her party. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the dinosaur on the front of the invitation. Mikayla and Hope love dinosaurs. I put the invitation on the refrigerator. It was a reminder for me to take them to the party. But it was also a reminder to never give up on my dreams. Don’t give up even if I have to wait for more than a decade.
March 18th was the day. We loaded up and headed for the children’s museum. The girls enjoyed watching Katelyn open her presents. They were all smiles as they ate their cupcakes and ice cream. And then they got to explore the museum and have fun being with their friend.
About halfway through the party I took Hope to the restroom. She looked up at me and she said “Where’s my friend?” I told her Katelyn was probably playing with some of her other guests. And then the tears started to come. Not in Hope’s eyes but in mine. “Where’s my friend?” It’s a question I never thought I would hear her ask. She has a language disorder so just the question itself coming from her mouth was a miracle. But it was so much more than that. A friend was something I wasn’t sure she would ever have. A birthday party was a place I wasn’t sure she would ever be. But yet here we were in a bathroom stall and it was all happening. A friend, a birthday party, and a question that brought tears to my eyes. My heart overflowed.
The invitation to Katelyn’s party is still on our refrigerator. It reminds me to never give up on my dreams for our girls. Don’t give up even when the road is long and I feel like my dreams will never come true. Don’t give up when Facebook constantly reminds me of what my family doesn’t have. Because one day my dreams for our girls just might come true. And if they don’t come true I can always choose to dream new dreams.