Since having baby Orla nearly 5 months ago, I, unsurprisingly, spend big chunks of my day watching her tiny but important milestones. The latest is what we call the “thumb pop” – she has worked out how to put her thumb in her mouth, but not how to keep it there. It pops out, she laughs, then puts it back in again. And on Sunday I actually saw the realisation dawn that the funny (and remarkably sweaty) skin-coloured chunks that fly around in her sky actually belong to her. Imagine her delight when she found she is flexible enough to suck on their strange appendages, toes.
I thank our lucky stars every day that, to this point, Orla is perfectly formed and seems to be developing along the right timeline. But as she grows so do my fears that something bad may happen to her. So too do my worries multiply: that she may struggle with learning or socialising; that she may one day be bullied or be a bit of an oddball who struggles to find kindred spirits.
So it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to stories in which kids who are born a bit different or have more struggles than average manage to overcome their difficulties in their own way, and find acceptance among their peers. My recent favourite is an oldy but a goody: the story of Jason McElwain, an American teenager with autism and a passion for basketball. All it took was a moment of generosity by a basketball coach for this boy’s life to change immeasurably. It’s a (schmultzy, but undeniably uplifting) reminder, really, to be compassionate, to be grateful, and to keep on following your dreams – and encourage those around you, big or little, totally normal or a bit quirky, to follow theirs – because one day your moment just might come.
(Written by Julia)