When I was little I was always jealous of the children whose families made those beautiful, sparkly, multi-colored dyed Easter eggs. I thought they were the best ones. I wished my own mom would would dip the eggs in many bright colors, swirl them into fancy designs, shake them in sparkles, put gem stickers on them and watch them shine. Over the top eggs. I yearned for them, as we always decorated our eggs using the standard colors and standard dyes. Nothing too fancy. Simple and traditional. I thought they were ordinary. I thought I wanted vibrant.
This year, I realized that ordinary can become vibrant and exceptional.
Holidays are a difficult time for my son, Brady. They are challenging times for his parents. I have started to actually dread holidays, and I believe my husband has as well. As any parent of a child with special needs knows, holidays can make you sad and overwhelmed because many times your child can't or won't follow along with traditions. Sensory issues make family gatherings, Easter bunnies, large egg hunts and anything to do with a crowd, a bit of a nightmare. Brady's intolerance of crowds and anything out of the ordinary, make for a lot of feelings of being left out, and of course, make it strikingly obvious, that he is "different." Having a special needs, developmental delays and diabetes is hard anytime of the year, but seems, just a tad bit more challenging during a holiday. There are many holiday parties, where my husband and I say to each other, if we didn't have our daughter, Molly, we would skip it all together, because the fun and enjoyment of a big holiday gathering, is gone.
But, like all holidays, the Easter season came around again. We went to our first egg hunt a little over a week ago. We prepared for the worst, especially considering it was a huge Township egg hunt with hundreds of local children. It screamed sensory overload for my little boy. My husband was overseeing the event, so we really wanted to be a part of the festivities. I packed up Molly and Brady and headed to the park. I assumed Brady would want to be held and leave the moment we got there. But something was a little different this year. Brady walked up to the little plastic eggs and picked up one, then two and even three and worked really hard to place them in his basket. We celebrated his accomplishment, as small as it would seem to most, and tried our luck at taking pictures with the Easter bunny. I knew this was a long shot. To kids without special needs, the Easter bunny can be a bit scary and overwhelming. Let's be honest....it is a giant bunny who walks upright. The kids and I headed over to the line for one quick picture. Brady was not up for sitting on the Easter bunny's lap or posing with his sister for a picture, but a little while later, something magical happened. The Easter bunny was walking by and I inched Brady over to him. Brady, who has cried and shook when he has even been in the same room as the Easter bunny in the past, lifted up his little hand and reached out for the bunny. Timidly, he put his hand up to the giant paw and smiled. He giggled and kept grinning as the Bunny paid more and more attention to him. Something so simple, a child interacting with a traditional holiday character, was so spectacular to us.
On Easter morning, my little boy, who has never attempted to search for his hidden Easter basket, took his big sister's hand and let her pull him around from room to room. He peeked behind couches and chairs in the living room, behind the TV in the family room and right behind the curtains, he pulled them back to see his basket waiting for him. He needed help and prodding, but he reached down and pulled out some of his goodies and smiled. Simple moments, times so many parent's take for granted, is something that makes us smile and stop and enjoy our little boy. We try hard to celebrate these little moments and focus on how far he has had come, not how far he still has to go.
There were still challenges this Easter. There will always be challenges. We know that holidays will never be as they were when our daughter was little. Holidays will never be carefree with Brady. We are learning to enjoy those little moments and celebrate experiences that so many other family's take for granted or just assume go along with the holiday traditions. We are trying keep up the traditions for our daughter, for our families, for our love of them, but we are also learning when to let them go and start our own that Brady can be a part. I am lowering my expectations, not because I do not believe Brady can achieve them, but because we do not need the added pressure in our lives. We just want to learn to enjoy our son for who he is and what he can do. Sometimes, it means he will not hunt for eggs with his cousins and he will not pose for family pictures and he will fuss and get nervous, but it will still be a holiday and we will still celebrate it as a family. We are learning that simple can still be extraordinary.
Saturday afternoon, the kids and I went to my parent's house. Brady wanted to spend all his time walking around outside. My mom wanted to dye eggs. She said it was tradition. She asked Molly, and my daughter was more than willing to help Nana with a tradition, especially when she got to have some one and only time with her Nana. Molly watched as my mom put just the right mix of water and vinegar in the color-coded cups. Molly listened intently to my mom's simple instructions of how to dye the eggs so the colors would be bright. With me, Molly always wants sparkles and stickers and her name in fancy egg coloring crayons. With my mom, Molly enjoyed the simplicity of good old fashion dye. As my daughter waited, her eyes grew wide as each egg came out so vibrant and beautiful. The colors were deep and rich. They didn't need all the extras, just a simple mix of coloring and vinegar made them stand out. When we drove home, Molly asked me how those boring colors, turned out so amazing. I explained to her, that sometimes all the sparkles, glitter and extras, take away from how vibrant those simple colors can be.
As I thought about this past Easter season, I realized that simple can be better. Simple joys, like your son's curious smile when he finally met the Easter bunny can be so beautiful. A hug from my son and his funny open mouthed kiss, are an extraordinary way to say thank you. Stopping to watch how precious a bond between a sister who knows she must lead and protect and a little brother who trusts that his sister will never steer him wrong, are beautiful to witness during an early morning hunt for baskets. Simple moments. I am learning that those simple moments can become vibrant when we least expect them to. Sometimes, the mix does not always come out quite right and we try to cover up those imperfections with lots of sparkle, but this season, I tried to stop and watch my son's spirit and determination rise to the surface and make him vibrant and extraordinary. This truly was an Easter to celebrate and remember.