One of my favourite memories with M happened on a Saturday afternoon almost two years ago. It was a warm day in April and the sun was melting the snow to its sticky spring consistency. My family and I decided to head out to the little Icelandic town of Gimli, Manitoba for the day to visit my Amma and Afi (Icelandic terms for Grandma and Grandpa). I asked M’s mom if she wanted me to take M along to see what Gimli was all about. As it turned out, she was thrilled that I offered to bring him to visit my grandparents, as M hadn’t seen his own in a long time.
We drove out to Gimli in my family’s minivan. My mom and dad sat in front, M and I sat middle and my younger sisters, Issy and Emily, sat in the back of our little bus. M and I played “I Spy With My Little Eye,” to occupy us on the long drive, but I never did guess which green thing M had spied. He replied with a prompt, “nope,” every time I made a guess. In hindsight, there probably was no right answer.
When we arrived, we had lunch at Beach Boy Restaurant in town. M had chicken fingers and fries, as usual, and I had a gyro. He sat at the table, ate politely, and cracked jokes with my family.
When we visited my afi, who was staying in Gimli Hospital with a broken leg, I was anxious. I thought that being in a hospital might make M nervous, or that he might try to touch things he shouldn’t. I decided to talk with him about hospital expectations before we went in.
“Remember,” I said. “No running or being goofy in the hospital ok? There are sick people trying to sleep in there.”
“Ok Becca, I know,” he said nodding. I held his hand anyway as we walked through the quiet hallways.
We got to my afi’s room and M broke free from my hold. He walked confidently inside, taking the lead.
“Hi Grandpa, my name M,” he said, looking in my afi’s eyes and resting his hand on the hospital bed railing.
“Oh, hello,” said my afi, obviously confused about the presence of the strange little boy I had brought along. I, on the other hand, was taken aback by the confidence and social grace M had displayed. I knew he was capable of it, but with strangers, he usually had more trouble.
“How are you?” he said to my afi, taking a seat at the foot of the bed. “You feel all better now?”
I was so proud of him for engaging in meaningful conversation with my afi that I teared up. When I dropped M back off at his house that day, I made sure to tell his mom how he had behaved more politely throughout that day than any seven-year-old I’d ever met. To a mother of any child, good news like that means so much.
That day is one of my favourite memories because I got to see M’s social skills improving in action and in front of people I love. More importantly though, it was one of the first times that reassured me that M, with the right support, could one day be just as socially capable as any person–maybe even more.