When I walked into Target on that rainy Wednesday, I had no idea it would change something in our lives so completely. I really just needed some coffee and a watch and my son, 6-year-old Charlie, needed to play with a toy that played music really loudly that we would never actually take home with us.
But when we rolled past the Cat and Jack sign with the little boy in the walker, it became a different kind of day. For Charlie, who has cerebral palsy, it was the moment he saw his own lifestyle reflected in the world.
It was a boy who looked like him in a way that people rarely did. It was seeing what is so familiar to us in a place where it is normally so very unfamiliar. And so Charlie laughed and clapped and put his hands together to sign for "more" and that's when I started crying.
It was such a testament to how much he connects with the world and really takes in and that's something that most people don't get to see because of his limited language and mobility with his cerebral palsy. And people did notice. They did stop to take in this crying mom and her laughing kid. They got how special it was too.
After I posted it on Instagram, I let it sit for a day, but I knew I wanted and needed to say more. It's what I talk about all the time. It's the central message of my book, Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood. We don't always get to pick the road we walk or what our motherhood looks like, but it can be such a blessing when we practice letting it lead us a little. It led me past infertility and into mothering Charlie and it led me to twins and it led me to Target for that sweet moment.
And I have received such an overwhelming positive response…people cheering for Target and for Charlie and for me and for all the other kids with special needs. It's been a wonderful wave of optimism.
The message is spreading to all these kids that it's okay to feel different. It's better than okay, in fact. It's a beautiful thing to embrace who you are. But it's hard. It's really hard when the world doesn't feel ready for you or doesn't know how to take you in your wheelchair or braces or hearing aid or walker. But this is a sign that the world is betting a little better at this. It's beginning to make way for a kid like mine.
And that's why I cried. As his mother, it was such a picture of grace. I am officially a Target lifer (as if I wasn't before).