I was there that day in the park. It was Easter Sunday. You didn’t know it, but I was there, behind you and your son, waiting anxiously for the egg hunt to start. My son was next to yours, in the yellow rain jacket. Did you see him? They look to be about the same age. Seven. Maybe yours was a bit younger. It was hard to tell.
Our boys looked just the same in their superhero T-shirts and ripped-knee jeans. Each was overflowing with anticipation, clamoring to tear through the rainbow pennant banner that held the mobs of kids at bay, keeping them off the egg-dotted lawn.
I heard the starting bell ring. I watched as the children tore through the banner, stampeding like animals. Then it happened. I saw your boy get tangled up in the banner, struggling to break free, to rush in with the other kids, to share in their fervor and excitement. I saw him trapped, like a fish in a net, as the crowd closed in around him. I saw the look on his face when he realized it was too late. That he was left behind. That all the eggs would be snatched up before he had a chance to grab one. I saw his Batman Easter basket squished in the grass, trampled by little sneakers.
My heart broke for him as the tears gushed from his eyes. You curled your arms around his shoulders to lead him away from the confusion and commotion. To find a peaceful place to reset.
A half an hour later, I saw you again. By this time, your boy’s anger had escalated. He was in the throes of a violent meltdown, kicking and flailing and screaming obscenities as you attempted to bearhug him back to stillness, ignoring the stares from passersby. You were so strong, so determined.
It was then that I realized our boys are not as similar as I first imagined, nor are our experiences as mothers. You see, my son is neurotypical. I know nothing about raising a child with special needs, the strength it takes, the courage, the resiliency. I fully admit my naivety and can only imagine what you go through on a daily basis, the knowledge that a seemingly pleasant day at the park could sour so quickly.
Later on, I saw you again. Your son was now calm and you had found solace in a private corner of the park. You carried an Easter basket on your arm, generously given to you by event sponsors for your own private egg hunt. I watched as your boy, dressed in his Spider-Man hoodie, hopped through the grass gathering up all of the plastic eggs and plopping them into the basket. I saw the joy in his eyes. The pride he felt.
And I realized that maybe I was right after all. That our boys are, in fact, the same. Both just kids, learning to figure out the world we live in, hoping to find as many treasures as they can along the way.