On our way home from a playdate, I pushed my two-year-old in an umbrella stroller. Corrigan, my five-year-old, walked about twenty feet behind me. This is her normal. She could keep a closer pace, if she focused on such a feat, but often she walks slower so she can take a look around.
Across the street were our neighbors, Dean, and his daughter, Kris. I said hi. I tried to smile. Be friendly. We see this family on occasions like this one when we are both outside. I stopped with the stroller to wait for Corrigan.
Dean looked down the sidewalk. “Here comes Pokey,” he said.
I laughed a little–only to be polite–while simultaneously thinking of crossing the street and giving him a sock in the stomach. This was my first experience with someone calling Corrigan a name. I wasn’t prepared.
Dean didn’t know that my husband and I have spent the last year taking Corrigan to physical therapy, that we’ve consulted with neuromuscular specialists to learn that yes, she does have delays in her gross motor skills, but they don’t know why; that each day I will, in one minute, admire her slower pace and wish I could be more like her, and then in another, I will yell, “Hurry up,” knowing full well it won’t help any one of us. This is who she is. She moves differently than the rest of us. She’s also more cheerful and optimistic than any of us.
Dean didn’t have a clue, just an inconsiderate sense of humor. I wanted to think of something witty to communicate to him that Corrigan’s slower pace is something we should all try sometime, but my defenses were up. My mind buzzed, why did this weirdo have to tease my little girl?
When Corrigan reached my side, we started walking again. She looked up at me and said quietly, “Why did he call me Pokey?”
“He thought he was being funny. Do you know what pokey means?”
“It means to move slow. To ditty-daddle.”
“But I’m not slow.” She took a few more steps, giving this more thought. I wondered what I could say to make her feel better, but she had that all under control. She said, “I go my own way.”
We ascended the steps to our front door. Inside, I would have to start supper and the rush to feed everyone and get back out again for the evening’s activities. I let Corrigan’s words sit on my shoulder a bit, repeat themselves a few times. And while Corrigan turned on the television and plopped on the couch for My Little Pony, I fell in love with her just a little more.