It’s Wednesday! Wednesdays equal Our Land! I am proud to feature another amazing voice in this Series which began here because you, my friends, were beyond wonderful. Today’s awesomeness is brought to you by my friend Tatum from Ain’t No Roller Coaster. Tatum’s and my paths crossed through our mutual friend Kerry, who, as you may recall, launched this series with her post Broken People. (thank you, Kerry – I’m so glad to have found you both!)
Tatum is one of the rare gems who has the ability to educate about special needs while being funny, introspective, deep, light, and genuine. Each time I visit her site, I feel like I’m hanging out on a park bench with a mom who gets it. All of it. If you don’t already know her, get to. You’ll be so glad that you did.
It’s Just The Way It Is
For the year end program, my four-year-old’s teachers choose one word to describe each child in the classroom. The word they picked for Kellen is “Inquisitive,” because he always wants to know “why”…about everything. Apparently he asks “why” even more than the rest of the three and four-year-old kids (something I’ve always suspected). I’m pretty sure that that I answer 23, 568 questions a day. Most of these questions are very random (I’m not sure what to do with all my knowledge about mud flaps). When you answer a lot of random questions, you tend to come to random conclusions.
Do you want to know my latest random conclusion?
Special needs are a lot like chlorophyll.
I warned you…random. Seeing as I answer 164, 976 random questions a week, this logic makes sense to me, but I guess I better explain before everyone starts questioning my sanity. (I’ve spent the vast majority of the last two years in isolation at home or in the hospital with my two-year old son, so questioning my sanity is viable.) However, I really do think I can convince you that our loved ones with special needs are a lot like chlorophyll.
You remember chlorophyll from plant biology right? I took Agronomy in college (because I heard it was easier than Biology…it wasn’t) and I remembered just enough to have this conversation:
Kellen: Mommy why is the grass green?
Me: Grass has a green substance in it called ‘chlorophyll’ and it makes the grass green.
Kellen: Why is chlorophyll green?
Me: It’s just the way it is.
Kellen: It’s just the way it is?
Me: Yep, it’s just the way it is.
Okay, truth be told, I had no idea why chlorophyll is green. I just don’t like saying “I don’t know” because when I do, Kellen gasps, “What? Are you not smart?” My pride can only take that question so many times in a day, so sometimes I change it up and answer “It’s just the way it is.”
However, I also know that just behind inquisitive, his teachers were probably considering “persistent” as the other word to describe Kellen. To prepare myself for when the question would inevitably come up again, I consulted my good friend Wikipedia. It seems like a lot of smarty-pants four-year olds question why chlorophyll is green because Wikipedia has a complete section on this discussion.
To my utter shock and amazement, my answer was right! Scientist don’t know why Chlorophyll is green. The answer really is, “it’s just the way it is.”
First, let me back up and tell you what I didn’t remember about why chlorophyll is important. Besides being what makes grass green, it also is the part of the plant that absorbs energy from the sun, a critical part of photosynthesis. Without chlorophyll, there would be more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in our air. However, some scientist don’t like that chlorophyll is green. Of all possible colors, green is good at absorbing light, but there are other colors that could do it more efficiently. Black chlorophyll would be the most efficient. One scientist suggested that chlorophyll being green is a limitation of evolution. “Even if black leaves were better, evolution’s limitations can prevent species from climbing to the absolute highest peak on the fitness landscape.” (In other’s words, “it’s just the way it is”.)
I have to admit, I was a little outraged by at this scientist’s suggestion that black chlorophyll could be better; if chlorophyll was black, our grass, trees and most plants would be… black. Our vibrant world would become dark. Instead, our environment is more beautiful because nature isn’t at its maximum efficiency.
Efficiency be damned, I want to be in the world of green chlorophyll.
That realization is why I believe special needs are a lot like chlorophyll.
Let me give you the example of my two-year-old son, Owen. He was born at 24 weeks and had a complicated course that left him with brain damage. In nature, he wouldn’t be considered very efficient. He still needs oxygen at night and with colds, he does not eat (100% g-tube), does not walk (but will soon), he has only a handful of words and he has enough food allergies to overwhelm a gluten free, vegan, raw food chef. No, he’s not at maximum efficiency, but like chlorophyll, he makes the air that I breathe so much better. Also like chlorophyll, the same things that put him at less than peak efficiency, are what make him amazing. He continues to thrive and add beauty to this world, not in spite of his disabilities, but because of them.
Sometimes we parents of special needs children can be a little like a four-year-old with our “why” questions. I have wondered “why” many times. I have asked doctors over and over and no one knows why Owen was born nearly 16 weeks too soon. There have been guesses, but mostly what I hear is “We don’t know.” I have a choice I can make; I can hear, “I don’t know” and question those doctors’ intelligence and forever question myself on what I could have done to prevent it. Or, I can hear, “It’s just the way it is” and know that we all are better because of the beauty that Owen brings to our world.
Yep, I’m absolutely convinced. Special needs are a lot like chlorophyll…”it’s just the way it is.”
You’re hooked, right? Read additional stories about Tatum, Owen and Kellen over at Ain’t No Roller Coaster. Tatum writes about her family’s journey with prematurity and special needs and focuses on connecting with people on similar paths. Her symbol is the zebra whose black and white color signifies the duality of life – the most difficult challenges come along with the greatest joys.