Max was hanging on the deck this weekend, messing around with Ben's toys as I did dishes. He likes to push his shopping cart. The toy wars are bound to erupt when Ben gets more possessive of his things.
Suddenly, Max knocked on the glass door and gestured. He wanted a paper towel. Why, I didn't know. I opened the door, handed him one and watched as he walked over to the bench, sat down and held it to his finger.
"Max, did you hurt your finger?"
"Yes!" he said. I walked over and saw a small scrape that was bleeding.
"How'd you hurt it?"
He pointed to the shopping cart. It has no sharp edges; maybe he'd wedged his finger into something.
"Are you OK?"
"Yes!" he said.
And so, I went back inside.
Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that Max hadn't ever taken care of his scrapes or cuts, or even cared to do so. This happens, on occasion: Max does something for the first time, and at that moment I realize that he's never done it before. I mean everyday things, like choosing his own outfit or grabbing a banana before we head out the door for a snack.
I don't have a running list in my head of things Max can't do. For one, Dave and I are used to giving him a hand. Also, we're used to Max. He is who he is, a boy as perfect and imperfect as any of us. Perhaps this may be difficult for people who don't have a child with special needs to understand, but we don't notice the deficits—although we are always giddy about the progress.
I kept watching Max through the deck door, fascinated by this development. He held that paper towel to his finger for a while, then he took a good look at it to see if there was still blood coming out of the cut. It was awesome to see him taking care of himself.
One of the hardest parts of having a child with special needs, especially when they are young, is worrying about what they will be able to do. One of the best parts of having a child with special needs is the tremendous joy you feel as your child progresses.
Even small steps forward feel big.