Thursday, February 26, 2009
Ballerina photos and a bedtime story about kids with special needs
When I got home from work today, there were a bunch of library books on the table, including this one, Ballerina Dreams. Life is so strange sometimes; remember a few weeks back I did a Q&A with a pediatric physical therapist who runs a dance program for kids with disabilities? Well, this is the book about her program. Sabrina had, coincidentally, found the book at the library when she was there with our babysitter, and decided to take it home.
I was so excited. We have yet to have a conversation about why Max is the way he is, and I thought this could be a good opportunity.
Max wasn't very interested in the book; he wanted to push a little toy caboose around the bed. So I started reading to Sabrina, and got to a photo of a little girl with braces on her legs.
Me: "See her feet? She has braces, to help her walk and dance. Max has braces, right?"
Sabrina: "I don't like braces."
Me: "Why not?"
Sabrina: "I just like to do ballet dancing. I think I want to do ballet again!"
[Background: Sabrina took ballet classes all of last year, then did nothing at the recital except stand onstage and peer serenely into the audience. The only time, and I mean the only time, she moved her feet was when she stepped forward at the end of the show to take a bow. Sabrina got the biggest round of applause of any kid.]
We continued, and I pointed out a shot of an assistant holding up a little girl.
Me: "See? This little girl is getting help standing up."
Sabrina: "Why does she need help?"
Me: "She has cerebral palsy."
Sabrina: "What is cepeeebral lobsy?"
Me: "It means that your brain got a boo-boo at birth and that your muscles don't work so well. Max has cerebral palsy."
And that was that. The book was just beautiful, as were all the little girls in it. At the end, Joann, the dynamo who runs the program, comes out and hands each girl a red rose. Here's the text:
"I am so proud of you all!" she says. Everyone has tears in their eyes. But they are not tears of sadness. They are tears of joy. The girls dreamed of being ballerinas, and they have made their dream come true.
I totally choked up. I felt like bawling, actually, but I got it together and finished the book.
Clearly, at 4, Sabrina is not quite ready to talk about Max. We will have that conversation, and many of them, in due time. For now, to her, Max is just the brother she loves.