As the world gets more and more used to "our special kids" growing up in it, my dream is for comfort. It may not be a word you would immediately think of, but it is one I can see or not see when you interact with my Teale. I have joked much over the last few years about Teale being my "bar buddy." You see, my husband works for the state by day, but at night he is a musician. He can be seen playing in several bands in our community. Music is his passion, but at this point in our life, it can't support our family. Mark has been able to balance a full time job & his music, which also helps to make ends meet. For years he was on hiatus from the music scene, life was too busy with work and family to pursue his passion. He still practiced his sax much & kept his chops, but didn't play as many gigs as he does now. When Mark started picking up more and more public gigs, I would go, getting sitters for the girls. It was my time, friends would meet me & it was a great break from the everyday. In my life, sitters aren't always easy to find. It takes a special person to be willing and able to be with Teale. She can be moody & explosive. Not "getting her" or reading her cues can create a situation that may be difficult to turn around. There are few people I trust to be alone with my "kids." One gig, when I couldn't get one of those brave souls, I decided to take Teale with me. It was a bar he had played much, there was food & I decided I would just buy Teale dinner. She could eat & hang with my friends & I, plus we'd get to see her Dad play. If it didn't go well, I could just leave. It was worth the try anyway, after all, what did I have to lose? Well, it's been over a year since I took that step & now Teale is my "bar buddy." If the gig is early enough & they serve food, Teale just comes with me. She loves the experience, my friends are all fabulous with her & I still get to see Mark perform. It's a win, win in many ways. I have always felt like every experience helps Teale to grow. Social experiences are especially important. Her learning to be in public at her Dad's band, has more lessons than I could express. She's learning restraint, not bugging her Dad while he's on stage. She's learning how to have give and take conversations with my friends. She's learned how to maneuver through crowds of people who don't know her "special needs." So many skills are taught by the experiences we "give" our kids. For Mark and I, we've always pushed to have Teale be a part of the community and not kept her isolated. It's risky and we've failed much, but the times it works are more important. Teale is able, just by living her challenges publicly, to teach compassion. Comfort is my goal, I want people of all walks of life to be comfortable with my severely developmentally delayed daughter. By taking her to events, where you generally would not be exposed to this population, we are teaching "comfort." Teale is the best "life teacher" I've had. I love that Mark & I have the same visions for her. I love that we have decided the rest of the world needs to get used to her being part of society. Many families isolate & protect their special needs family members from the world. I understand why, I've had many of those moments when someone has broken my heart by not caring or showing understanding, but without exposure, people don't get comfortable. So even though we are only one family, I think we can help educate, by just living in as typical way as possible. Teale will probably be my "bar buddy" for many years to come, here's hoping she teaches "comfort" to many.