Dear Mom in the Waiting Room,
I didn’t see you at first. What I noticed as we walked in was a young, laughing girl spinning around with a stuffed animal at the end of her outstretched arms. She had that kind of pure laugh that made me smile just hearing it.
We were there for an ultrasound. Not a major procedure, but my son had major stress. My son is autistic, and has a boatload of medical trauma from his years in an orphanage. Add those together, and hospitals don’t end up high on our list. My son didn’t even notice the spinning, laughing girl.
I sat my nervous son down on the couch, gave him his iPad, and went to fill up his water bottle. (“Have him drink lots of water for an hour, and don’t let him pee,” they told us. Yeah, okay. We had peed 4 times since the parking garage.)
The waiting room was busy. I’m not sure you even noticed us.
Halfway to the water fountain, I heard the girl shout, “Minecraft! Hey! I love Minecraft!”
She hopped over to my son, and plopped herself down right next to him. She offered up that amazing laugh again.
“Oh hi. Do you want to play with me?”
(Hang on for a second, Mom in the Waiting Room, I need to interrupt myself. Was that my kid who just went out of his way to interact with a mini-ball-of-female-fire in an entirely appropriate way? Shut The Front Door.)
The girl answered, “Yeah, I wanna play. I love Minecraft. Your house is cool. Did you build a bed?”
“It’s not a house. It’s a B-29.”
“I’ve heard of those.”
“B-29s are my favorite. What’s your favorite?”
“My favorite is playing outside. And Minecraft.”
And on it went. My son was having a bona fide conversation. With another kid. I stood there with my mouth open, and my son’s forgotten water bottle tilted at a dangerous angle.
She asked, “Why is your lip scar’ry and big?”
Jax said, “I just had surgery. I was born with broken lips.”
She said, “Well, it’s totally cool.”
Stop the press. My autistic son and a girl he has never met are having an honest-to-goodness playdate in a hospital waiting room, his cleft lip scars are “totally cool,” and his conversational skills just jumped ten levels, and landed on pretty damn good. Am I awake?
I listened as this girl with the fairy-tale laugh made every sacrifice, every inconvenience, and every therapist in my home absolutely worth it.
When their name was called, she sprang up. Mom in the Waiting Room, you also got up, but slowly. I had looked around earlier, trying to identify this girl’s parent. You had been sitting in a chair several feet away with your eyes closed. I didn’t peg you as her mom. You’re younger than I am, but tired. I could see how tired. I wanted to say something to you as you left, to acknowledge your daughter’s inherent kindness somehow, but our eye contact was so brief, your smile so slight, that I let my son do all the talking. “Bye New Best Friend!,” he said.
It wasn’t until the drive home when I replayed what had happened in my head that I remembered Jax asking his new friend why she was in the hospital.
“My brother has a port.”
Oh God. You’re not just tired, you’re trying to stay afloat.
Mom in the Waiting Room, I was going to tell you that your daughter gave me hope today. But that’s not quite right. She gave me more than hope, she gave me proof that I have chosen the right path for my son. My son connected, he interacted, he laughed with a peer – things I thought might be out of his reach forever. I gambled big, but today I saw that it has been worth every saved-up, cashed-in penny. I have a feeling I will sleep though the night tonight for the first time in years.
It sounds like your plate is fuller than most, and I think you might have really important, really hard things on that plate. I don’t know you, Mom in the Waiting Room, but if you’re like every other mother in the universe, you wonder if you’re doing enough. You are. You must be. Your daughter is special, and that kind of special doesn’t grow without a lot of encouragement. Good job. Even in the hospital waiting room with your eyes closed, you did more than enough.
*This post appeared first on the Huffington Post.