Her father and I were sitting close together in the school auditorium last night. Zoe stood between us , an arm around Daddy’s neck and an arm around mine.Cheek to cheek, we watched her big sister on stage singing songs with her preschool class. I couldn’t tell where Zoe’s smile began and where it ended. It swallowed her entire face.
Minutes later, I saw a mother sitting behind us studying Zoe’s face. Was she noting the differences in Zoe's behavior, her awkward sounds and clumsy movements? Or was she envious of Zoe's obvious outpouring of love and affection , her display of raw pleasure?
She is happy, and affectionate. She greets scowling old ladies at the grocery store with a sing-song “ hi” and a folded-hand wave that she accomplishes slowly.
When curious children approach her and begin examining her walker, Zoe looks to them eagerly, as if to ask ““ Do you want to be my friend?” She smiles adoringly into their sometimes tired, grumpy preschooler faces.
On some days it is Zoe’s special store of happiness that keeps me going. The days that may follow a night of little sleep, the days full of therapy evaluations , doctor appointments and unfinished work waiting in my office.
Her happiness is without limits and you can’t help but be drawn to her unique charm. I have seen it diminish professionals of all standings, and no one seems immune to her smile or her chubby cheeks.
And it is this happiness that moves me to protect and safeguard her innocence. More so , than with her big sister. I can be fierce when it comes to protecting and defending Zoe and it is because her innocence is like that of an infant. She is who she is. She gives affection, love and attention without thought or discrimination.
As a mother I try to imagine Zoe later in life. Is this her special gift? Is it instinctive and who she is? Will she be like this her whole life long or will life’s lessons teach her discretion and caution, replacing her unlimited happiness and affection?
As a special needs mom, even imagining the future is impossible. Unsure of her intellectual ability, I can’t even guess. I can have hope and faith and see progress.
For today ..celebrating who she is and her happiness is enough.