I think I've written here before about how much I love my neighborhood and our neighbors. It is so gratifying that all we need to do is step outside our door and we are right in the midst of a community of people who know and enjoy my children.
Yesterday the girls who live in a group house across the street came to play with my boys in the backyard while I tidied up the garden. When they were leaving they asked me if they might arrange a time next week to go swimming with the kids. Two of them are swimming instructors and they promised to teach Sami to swim without his water wings and to do a flip in the water. He is thrilled and I know Oliver will be, too. I love how they always come and sit on our porch or hang out with the kids on the sidewalk when they are between classes or in the early evening. I will be so sad when May comes and they all graduate.
Today the young man next door took the time to help both kids ride his skateboard. Afterwards he told me that he is an instructor in the adaptive skiing program at a nearby resort and wondered if I might bring Oliver there this winter to go skiing with him!! I was thrilled with this. I think he is maybe 24 or so and he wears a prosthetic leg and maybe it is the experience of being "different" that draws him to Oliver. But he always takes the time to come and say hello to my boys when they are outside and he always asks such good questions about Oliver.
Also, on a couple of occasions when Oliver has left the house more quickly than me when we were preparing to go somewhere they were immediately alert that Oliver was outside on his own and they always made sure that I knew he was out there and that he was safe. I can't tell you how comforting it is to me knowing that other people are watching out for him.
Three doors down from us lives a family that has become very special to us. They have a daughter who is a year younger than Oliver who has down syndrome. There is nothing, nothing, like having someone close by who totally gets what it is like to raise a special needs child while balancing the needs of the other children. Very frequently we call each other: "I really need to get out of the house with these guys. Can I come and hang out?" Or, if we know the other is struggling due to little patience or lack of sleep: "Why don't you send the kids down for an hour so they can play together." Also, because we know that the other one "gets" it we offer and take support without feeling bad about it. "Could you use a loaf of bread?" is code for: "Here, take this because then you don't have to make bread for a few more days." "Can I borrow a cup of rice?" means: "I just can't face loading my kids into the car to go and get one thing at the supermarket."
Then there is the guy who owns the eye glass shop on the corner. I've been in to see him so many times this year to get my glasses repaired. That's just the way parenting is for me: very physical. He has stopped being surprised to see me and invites me to bring the kids by to play in the kids corner whenever we want to. I've taken him up on a it a few times and I'm always rewarded by the extra big smile he gives to my boys when he sees us coming through the door.
Knowing these people who make extra room in their hearts and their lives for my children is its own reward. I often think about the turns my life has taken. I couldn't have imagined this life six years ago. I thought I would always work outside the home. I never, ever, would have considered homeschooling. But I probably wouldn't have taken the time or had the opportunity to know these people either. I'm not glad Oliver has the challenges that he has, but there is no denying that because of him my life is less superficial. And for that I feel entirely blessed.