I took two photos of Lucy the other night. She was asleep on the sofa in the living room, sleeping the way only children do; deeply, silently, rosebud mouth slightly open and hair damp with sweat. I love watching my children sleep. I got close to her to kiss her and spotted a scar on her jawline. I’m not even sure how she got it. I looked then at the one on her forehead, the evidence of an incident involving inexperienced running feet and a fireplace.
And I started thinking about scars. The visible scars of dyspraxia. The invisible scars of special needs.
Lucy didn’t walk until she was almost two. She didn’t run or jump until much later than that. At age 7.5, she still can’t ride a tricycle independently and after years of swimming lessons, she’s just showing signs of learning to swim. Kind of.
Lucy’s brain just won’t tell her body quite how to put it all together. They do this dance at school before assemblies to a fun, bouncy mashup, and the music teacher leads the kids through a set of simple moves in a sneaky, brilliant attempt to get at least SOME of the wiggles out. Lucy can’t follow the moves. But she loves to dance so she just does her own thing.
She has scars on her face from crashing into things at ages that typically developing children would have avoided. A scar on her elbow from a short fall off what should have been a harmless toy. I have scars on my belly and hips from stretching and stretching more to carry my children. These are the scars we see.
I’ve often wondered if we should just put her in a helmet while she’s awake. Not awake on a skateboard, not awake on a scooter or a bike…just awake. I’ve wondered why they make foam corner guards for tables and edge guards for fireplaces (and yes, we were using all those things) but there is no way to protect my kid from walls.
I’ve put double locks on the doors because she doesn’t know that she can’t just walk out of the house and run into the street.
I’ve wondered if she knows she’s not doing the same dance as the other kids, and if she knows, does she care?
I’ve wondered how to teach Lucy to tell someone if she’s lost, or in trouble, or being mistreated. But I can’t. So, for now we’re working on her being able to say her name.
I have helicoptered and hovered and over-called and over-texted and not slept because I’ve HAD to. It takes that much vigilance to keep my special child safe. My therapist calls it hyper-vigilance. It happens with PTSD.
I’ve wondered if I didn’t have a kid with special needs, would I have been diagnosed with PTSD? I’ve wondered if we didn’t have a child with special needs, would my husband and I have spent more time together and feel more like lovers and less like roommates? I’ve wondered if my older daughter would feel more like coming around because everything wouldn’t always “be about Lucy”.
These are the scars we cannot see.
The scars on Lucy’s face don’t detract from her beauty. They tell a story and give her face character. That’s how I feel when I see her scars. Maybe I need to think that way about the ones I can’t see, too. What are scars, after all? A sign that what was wounded knit itself together; a sign that where there was trauma, there was healing, too. Maybe that’s the way to think about scars…the ones we see and the ones we don’t.