Bedtime stories often are the same books over. And over. And over.
I can recite a few fan favorites by heart as I'm sure each and every one of you can, too. Even when we throw in a few new picks, the boys always come back to their tried and true books. We have started reading 5 Minute Avengers Stories, and let me tell you, the boys love it. In five minutes, I can turn those boys into glassy-eyed book zombies. I admit to glossing over a few sentences and adlibbing to get the point across in less time, but nonetheless, they stay fully engrossed with all of the superhero antics.
Last night, one particular story about the Incredible Hulk gave me pause. In it, everyone on the outside saw a loud, angry, monster. Hulk knows that isn't all that he is. He's sad that people stop and stare at him when he is out and about because he looks and acts differently than others. When he does try to kindly approach some people on the street, Hulk overhears them calling him names so he walks away, angry. He smashes something, further reinforcing the claim that he is only a monster. Hulk recognizes he is misunderstood, save the Avengers. They know that yes, Hulk is loud and often can't control his emotions, but that he also protects everyone with this uniqueness he has been gifted with, and that he has a truly loving heart. Of course, Hulk has a speech delay as evidenced by his catchphrase "Hulk smash!" so he can't fully communicate this. I don't want to spoil the story for you, but he saves the day, and Everyday Citizen learns that it's okay to be different. (Insert Reading Rainbow music).
As a special needs mama, this story resonated with me and got me in the feels probably more than the author intended. It made me think of my teen with autism. Not only are we in the throes of teenagedom , but Aiden also has a speech delay and is often misunderstood. He can look shy, (and trust me, this kid is NOT shy), but this is because he gets completely lost when it comes to social interactions with people outside of his "Avengers Squad". What can come across as a tantrum is really a meltdown because his brain is trying to process everything all at once and he is in a sensory overload. In all of this though, his heart is gold. He turns into a puddle of mushy fluff when it comes to babies. He always wants to lend a helping hand. He is kind, but like Hulk, he has a uniqueness about him that you have to accept.
My younger child is my kid full of emotions. He is quick to burst into tears if things aren't Just So (whatever the Just So Du Jour happens to be in that moment). He's five and full of spirit. He has no shortage of words but does fall a little short in the attention span category. He is LOUD and always has GREAT IDEAS, even if you're in the middle of talking about something completely different. He's quick to tell you that you are "breaking (his) heart", but also about a new word he can read, or an amazing song and dance routine he has come up with on the spot. Like Hulk, his emotions get the best of him. Like Hulk, he is truly kind and protective of the world around him.
Who is your Hulk? Is it your child with special needs? Is it a kiddo whose square peg learning will never fit in the round hole? Is it the neighbor down the street that comes off as crotchety, but is simply lonely and needs a friend? Could it be that person you have sized up based on nothing more than assumptions, but never really got to know? In the special needs community, we are always educating and advocating for acceptance, but I challenge each of you, myself included, to do the same in the "everyday world". Find your Hulk. Look past the big, green, monster and see someone simply Incredible.