Years ago I taught the girls why I celebrate different achievements for each of them differently. I also sat with them and told them if there are days it does not feel balanced to please let me know. I said sometimes they will be right and I will try to pay more attention, but it isn’t always balanced and this is why.
There are things most parents expect to happen—crawling, walking, talking. It takes different amounts of time and skills come at different times, but we often don’t celebrate as much for things we expect. The thing is once we heard the word autism we no longer knew what to expect. When at 4, Peter was not talking much, still ran from people’s hugs, covered his ears for the slightest change in sound, we as parents worried.
The girls, even at a young age, understood. In fact, they were suddenly impressed with some of Peter’s “little” accomplishments too. There are days they still ask me, “Why don’t you ever get excited when I do such and such?” and then I tell them how proud I am of them, not just for the moment they are seeking, but for a list of other reasons.
Most days though, Peter’s sisters are his biggest cheerleaders. In fact, there are times they come running to me now. The other night I let Charlotte and Kit go outside after dinner. They quickly joined our neighbor Caitlyn and I could hear singing through the living room window.
Peter heard it too and decided to join them. Caitlyn, a fifth grader, has become a friend to all three. The next thing I knew Charlotte came to the front door saying I had to come outside. It took me a few minutes.
Charlotte told me not to worry because she had pictures. Then she asked Peter to join in one more time. In the twilight, I could still make out his smile as he led the girls in a dance in the front yard. They were celebrating that summer was almost here.
Kids singing about summer is nothing new, but Charlotte knew that Peter joining in an impromptu dance in the middle of our block with a friend was many new things all at once. In fact, all three girls took a different moment out of their dance to tell me another fact about Peter—how he had joined in, how he chose some of the dances, how he didn’t stop when a car went by.
I marveled at Peter and then I told each of the girls how grateful I was for sharing the moment with me and realizing how big it was. After all, it’s never too early to learn to appreciate the little things.