Not long ago, Clara and Gabe were (once again) the new kids in school – this time at St. Mary Magdalene in Apex, NC. An all too familiar feeling for us! Clara and Gabe being professionals at this “new kid on the block” thing, wasted no time making new friends. Dad and I are so proud of your silly siblings.
The process kind of looked like this – we’d meet the moms (and dads) here and there, through light conversation they’d hear all about you, our special little Addie. Since you go to a different school, people would soon learn the track of your life’s journey, and how it is a little different than most. Some lucky few would get the chance to meet you at church, or on an off day when you’d play at the playground during pick up.
One day, big sis’ Clara made a new friend, Thea. They clicked almost instantly. When I met Thea’s mom, Ms. Chantal, I quickly realized she was something special. Without even talking with her, I could see this amazing, positive energy radiating off of her like sunshine!
She is truly passionate about life. She is the type of person who is ready to take on the world and give you the shirt off her back at the same time if need be.
I truly admired her. She is raising four (yes, four) amazing little people as a single mom, and is doing an amazing job at it!
Somewhere along the way, a friend of hers introduced her to a post about autism and surfing. Hang 10 baby – we ain’t talking surfing the web, but real, live, get yourself in the waves and “cowabunga” style.
She had recently started paddle boarding as a new activity for herself and her kids. Well, one thing leads to another, and you can guess where the story ends, right? You, in the water, on a board, crushing some gnarly waves (this kind of reminds me of Dad’s post about you becoming a world class rock climber…). Rock on Addie. Rock on.
Anyway, a few days after we had spoken about that article, I saw Ms. Chantal at school, and she said "I am serious; I'd love to take Addie on the lake and try paddle boarding with her. Based on what I’ve read, she may really love it.”
Naturally, I laughed and started telling her about how "predictable unpredictable” that could be with yelling and screaming, but then again it could be awesome to, right?
Never know unless you try.
What she didn't know was that I wanted to break down in front of her with tears. She barely knew us, but wanted to share her passion with you, our daughter. To make a difference in your life! Why? She already had so much going on in her own life! Could she somehow relate to how calming water and nature was for you, seeing that she loved it herself?
She has a big her heart and we were unbelievably grateful.
With both our families having such busy schedules, a year would quickly go by. We’d see each other off and on, but the lake was generally a miss. I began to see that the “big heart gene” had also been passed along to her children. Sweet Beatrice (one of her twins), was and still is always quick tell anyone questioning your mannerisms or lack of language (hey it happens, kids are unfiltered and curious), that “There’s nothing wrong with her, God just made her brain differently.”
As summer was quickly closing on us all and only a few swimming days left, our party of ten finally made it to the lake. This was happening!
Surprisingly Addie, having lived in NC a few years ago and now, we’d never visited any of the lakes here! I know weird, right?! This was indeed a great adventure not only for you, but the whole family.
Once we had arrived, it felt familiar and comfortable. Having grown up in Michigan we saw lakes far more often than ocean waters. It was beautiful, warm, and not crowded! Absolutely perfect Addie!
You jumped right in without any hesitation! It was a bit breezy and you quickly found enjoyment in sitting, letting the water push past you on the shore. In addition to your delight of the water, you also seem to enjoy the taste of the mud – not my favorite part of the day.
Chantal’s youngest’s daughter – same age and nicknamed Addie (Adelaide) as well, kept asking you to play. It was so adorable. She accepted your stimming, and squeals of excitement as a “yes”! Going under water, then popping back up causing you to laugh as if it was a game of peek a boo!
Mark it Addie, you were playing with someone!
Not next to someone, but actually playing with one of your peers. Not gonna lie, it made me teary eyed. Addie (Adelaide) knew you were different, but that didn’t stop her from playing with you. Side note - Later she even proclaimed you were “best friends” and needed a sleep over! Perhaps one day – we’ll see…
When it seemed everyone had warmed up to the water, Chantal dropped a large paddle board in to see how you’d react. This was the moment we’d been waiting for. I had a thousand different scenarios play out in my head. Which one was it going to be?!
Then just like I had imagined, the big kids were like ants to sugar scurrying to climb on it, one by one we peeled them off giving you a chance to check it out. You touched it a few times, then backed away. Careful not to make any sudden moves to startle you, we waited patiently, let you truly do this on your own sweet “Addie time”. Chantal pushed half her body up on the board and showed you how you could kick, kick, kick with your legs splashing in the water - a familiarity to you from swimming class.
It seemed to draw you back in. You splashed your way back over and pushed your body up on the board. You slowly made your way to sitting on top. You looked around, stimmed a few times then climbed down back into the comfort of the water. You did this a few times over the next hour or so.
Not really knowing what to expect, and the reality of losing daylight, mommy and daddy saw this as a huge win!
You see Addie, slow and steady wins the race. You need to try things quite a few times before truly embracing them, and that’s A-OK. I’m positive we’ll do this again and yes, I believe you will absolutely love it. You may not have ended up like Pocahontas paddling out into the middle of the lake (one of my “Daddy-esque” visions, but you tried something new, smiled A LOT, and made a new “best friend” as Adelaide would say. We really had a lot fun! We all did! That’s a win baby girl.
A very busy, kind, loving mother and her sweet children opened their hearts to us and you got to try something new. Awesome!
We are truly blessed to have been given such kindness.
Great job Ad!