Just to tell a story that how my seven years old taught me something, won’t be enough. You need to know why I learned from what she taught me. As a teenager, I have lived a very mature life - a life full of experiences mostly people come across after the age of 20. I was expected to be strong and brave as a man. Being outside the house, I had all my guards up and be as tough as a nail. No extra smiles or friends except a couple from elementary to university. All I knew was responsibilities as an elder sister and daughter.
Through High school to University, commute in local bus was a daily routine. You meet and see all kinds of people and kids. Having a small social circle, I can't say the crowds of by passengers scared me, but they certainly made me uncomfortable. However, the discomfort reached a whole new level when there were crying and wailing babies in the bus, and those who travel in buses know, there is ALWAYS a wailing baby or kid. To me, it was intolerable. I would be frustrated the whole way and by the time I sat with my mom and she asked how was your day - I would reply, “The day was good. We developed a website or whatever… But in the bus, a child was crying - I could have jumped out of the bus if possible.” Don’t take me wrong I loved kids, I just had little tolerance for crying and yelling - my sisters said, “Allah help your kids! Send them to us and we’ll bring them up. With you, they will only see mama jumping out of the window!”
When Eman, my daughter with down syndrome was born - she brought a bundle of lessons with her out of which patience and happiness are the best I can use for this article. Eman could not sit straight because of weak muscle tone, a condition known as hypotonia. She couldn’t sit straight, or walk until the age of two, but she still smiled and was happy with the little things she could do. She couldn’t speak until the age of five, but managed to enjoy every bit of her sign language.
Recently, she got a tick bite during our son’s Cub-Scouts annual family camping weekend. No one had the idea she got bit and neither do we know when she removed the tick herself. She didn’t mention it. Eman has a high tolerance of pain, which sometimes is a disadvantage. Next day she had vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever. I thought it was food poisoning and started her on Pedialyte and Tylenol. By afternoon, she started complaining of not able to walk to the bathroom. I asked her if she had pain in muscles so I could massage. But there on her leg, I see a bite and red rash around it.
I freak in my heart and told her we go to the doctor next day. We wake up in morning. The infection had grown. After breakfast, I took her to the paediatrician, who said the infection has spread too much. I took her to the ER. That one bite kept her at the hospital for one week. Yes, she is a pro with arm hugger (blood pressure machine), blood drawing, and heart scanning. The MRI was new and the toughest on both of us. Although, I was with her in the MRI machine hanging with my legs out of it. I could ignore my pain seeing that how patient she was with only my arms around her.
We got the MRI done in one hour and the technicians said that this was the best scan they had even when compared to adults. To me it wasn’t a surprise knowing Eman is strong but there was a strange feeling of thankfulness all over my body. When they untied her legs, she started screaming with joy, “We are done?” And the technician replied, “ Yes you are Eman - do you want a lollipop?” She forgot everything and took her favorite one out of the jar.
The patience she shows in the toughest time humbles me when even I am freaking out in fear of the unknown. She accompanies it with unlimited smiles and gestures. I can’t be sad in front of her - she is my “ sadness scanner”. As soon as I am not smiling, she knows something is wrong. She calls me funny mama. Who knew the woman once not capable of tolerating kids on the bus, will become a funny mama!
Children with special needs teach us so much. I have mentioned many blessings at the IEP meetings and evaluations that we have gotten, especially myself. There is none in her Elementary school, who doesn’t know Eman. I am not known as Fajar’s or Ayan’s but “Eman’s Mom”. The happiness she brings to her teachers and aides at school, seems beyond measure when they stop me and tell me how she amazed them or did something funny that day.
I am her mother but she is the one who has become my identity and that feeling forces me to change into someone, Allah intends her to be with. I would not have gathered the loving crowd, she has around her at such little age. She does so with her smiles and friendliness.
She gets disappointed if someone doesn’t acknowledge her properly and she will not remember if they meet her again. But I see that she has no bad feelings for them either. Maybe, I have felt angry to see her letdown at the moment or sometimes ignore their attitude due to lack of knowledge. Unlike myself, Eman has the ability to balance out the discontent by saying “I love you” to us whom she is confident in. It is always amazing to see how she redeems her disappointment with love and expresses it like nothing happened.
Although, I am told to be her strong advocate and respect me for being a part of her goals. She is the source of my respect, the love of my life - my teacher!