She has that elusive gaze that calls out to you. Light hair illuminates her beautiful face steeped in mystery. On his mother’s lap, the child begins to fidget. We are seated side by side. This meeting of parents must seem endless to him. Myself, I poke my nose under my mask. My concentration falters. So she…
On several occasions, the little one drops at her feet – and therefore mine – a plastic rattle, little commensurate with her age. What can be hers? 10-11 years or more. To estimate the seniority of a being has never been my strong point. But I guess from her erratic gestures and indistinct whispers that she is part of what we modestly call the “Different children” Where “Extra-ordinary”, with reference to the visible or invisible disabilities that affect them.
→ READ. “Parents of disabled children have a stress equivalent to a soldier”
I pick up the rattle, gently hand it to him. Once, twice. I unmask myself for a moment, smile at him. So, without warning, she stands in front of me and gives me a tonic hug, which takes me by surprise as much as it illuminates me. I ask her for her first name. In a low voice, her mother answers me for her. Affable, attentive, all for the well-being of her daughter.
400,000 disabled pupils admitted to national education
End of meeting. There are encounters that move you, without having to say much. This child has touched something in me, something that goes beyond me and leaves me speechless. In its own way of being present, without pretense, without artifice. Its puzzling authenticity. The young stranger has pulverized, for the space of a second, the weight of the conveniences of this world.
Her mother, whose hardships, ups and downs, and obstinate courage, we can imagine, seems inhabited by an impregnable peace. Of those who are born in the heart of great distress, clinging to the love we have for our loved ones. This is a guess. Like many, existence has so far rather preserved us, my relatives and me, despite inevitable uncertainties, sometimes worried trial and error. Nothing in common with what parents of “extra-ordinary children” have to go through.
The situation of the 400,000 handicapped pupils welcomed into the ranks of national education came back to me as an echo; a figure in clear progression. Some ground has been covered. Much remains to be done. Supporting parents and providing a fulfilling environment for these children is not so simple. We rightly welcomed the echo of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, a showcase of happy “inclusion”, a great contemporary cause. But what place do we really leave to disabled people – physical or mental – in our choices in society, in the daily life of our institutions? How to take into account these invisible people whose thirst for relationship is often immense?
Forgetting that we are all secretly dented, we regard with paternalism those who present a visible infirmity. At the risk of ignoring that we also need them. Sometimes a child’s glance is enough to understand it. As obvious.