Hippo and his buddy, “Charlie”

The past couple of months have been…trying, to say the least, in my world of mommyhood. I’ve been questioning myself as a parent. And I’m pretty sure my kid has too. Hippo has been in this space of independence that is leaning more on defiance. And having trouble understanding that mommy is actually logical & knows what she is talking about. My mother said there would be days like that. Lots & lots of them. She also said there would be days when the light would shine & the child would do something so amazing that everything else would fade away into oblivion. Well today, the light came through & it was so bright a sista had to put on her Ray-Bans.

At the beginning of the year, Hippo’s class got to pick a buddy from the third grade class next door. There was a little boy in the third grade class that they didn’t count on getting a buddy. Let’s call him, Angel. Angel wasn’t very social, but Angel had a lot of energy. Angel had a special teacher with him all the time and was sensitive to a lot of noise. Angel had Autism. Most of the kids in Hippo’s class didn’t understand why Angel behaved the way he behaved, so they picked other kids to buddy with. But not Hippo. Apparently Hippo walked straight up to Angel and asked him if he would be his buddy. And to the teachers’ surprise & joy, Angel accepted. Hippo came home and told me all about his buddy. He would talk about his buddy every single week. Angel, this! And Angel, that!

One night, Hippo was reading, “My Brother Charlie” to me. When he got to the end he said, “You know Mom, Angel is like Charlie. Angel is like RJ (Holly Robinson Peete’s son & Autism Advocate)?” To which I replied, “Really? Angel has autism?” He told me no, he didn’t have autism, but that he thought he was a lot like Charlie & RJ. But I explained to him that Charlie & RJ have autism. Hippo told me that he asked his buddy Angel if he had autism, and Angel told him no. I explained to Hippo that maybe Angel didn’t know what the name was yet, but that it was possible that he did have autism. Hippo let that sink in and then kissed me goodnight.

Today was Hippo’s classroom thanksgiving feast with their third grade buddies. When I got there, the kids were all dressed up as Native Americans or Pilgrims, except for Hippo. His TA was having a hard time finding his. Angel was waiting with Hippo next to the TA. After a while of looking, Angel became impatient and began asking over and over, Where is my buddy’s costume? Where is my buddy’s costume? Before I, Angel’s teacher or Angel’s mother could intervene, Hippo gently put his hand on Angel’s and looked him in the eye saying, “It’s okay buddy. They’re going to find it! They’re gonna find it.” And he kept his hand there on top of Angel’s until Angel was completely relaxed. They finally located Hippo’s costume and Angel volunteered to help Hippo put it on. And then Angel gave Hippo a big bear hug telling him he was the best buddy! You would think that moment would have my boo-hooing. But it wasn’t until Angel’s shadow teacher came up to me and said, “Hippo has been so amazing for Angel. He has helped so much with Angel’s growth this year.” that I started crying.

My little five year old has profoundly affected another kid by simply being kind and recognizing that maybe this guy needed a little extra patience. It made me realize that maybe I need to take the time to figure out what it is that Hippo needs a little extra of. Parenting lessons don’t always come from a blog or a book or an expert. Sometimes you need to look at the people who made you a parent to figure out how to be a great one!