Talking to Strangers
I learned something from my impulsive, loving, child with ADHD. Sometimes it pays to talk to strangers.
Sometimes, Natalie’s ADHD impulsivity and her loving personality are a winning combination.
Friday night, Natalie, Aaron, and I got a jump start on a mini vacation. Don and I were scheduled to arrive at Iowa’s Lake Okoboji at 4:00 pm on Saturday to meet treasured friends, Steve and Joani Gent, and Mark and Debbie Flannery, for an annual reunion/vacation. The kids would stay with Aunt Ann and Uncle Fred while we were gone. They were excited about going to “Camp Aunt Ann”. When Don finally faced the fact that he couldn’t get away from work until late Friday night, I decided to take the kids as far as Aunt Ann’s house. Don would meet us the next morning, and he and I would leave for Okoboji from there.
Natalie has been going to “Camp Ann Aunt” monthly for respite weekends since January, and, although Aaron understands that the intention of these visits is to allow Don and me to spend quality time with him, Aaron feels left out. So, Aaron spent Friday night at Ann and Fred’s, and Natalie and I spent the night in a hotel. That way Aaron got his own special time with them, before Natalie descended on them and sucked up all their attention.
Natalie was wound up and happy Friday night — her sweet wild-child self, not her alter-ego demon-child self (I can joke about that — don’t you DARE try it.) As I unloaded our luggage at the hotel, Nat said, “Sorry, mom! I talked to a stranger! Sorry!” She’d greeted the couple two parking spots down. “That’s okay. Mom’s right here watching, so you’re safe.”
Our short stay at the hotel was marked by Nat continuously converting strangers into friends. She made friends with 10-year-old Dalton at the pool, then continued the friendship at the continental breakfast the next morning. He seemed flattered by Nat’s endless attention, and answered her constant questions sweetly, with a slightly puzzled smile on his face.
When we made an 11:00 pm foray to the parking lot to retrieve Hello Kitty blanky from the trunk of the car, Nat made pony-tailed, 18ish Joe feel like the most important person in the world: “Promise me this will the last cigarette you ever smoke! Smoking is bad for you!” Joe chatted with her, and extracted a sincere promise from her that she’d never start smoking.
And she begged to return to the front desk again and again to talk to Brianna, a community college nursing student who is working as many hours as she can this summer-student style. We learned that Brianna graduated from Clear Lake High School with my nephew, Marshall. She went to Iowa State University in Ames, where we live, and studied elementary education, in hopes of becoming a special ed teacher. Her grandfather is credited with bringing Special Olympics to Iowa, and her family has long involved with people with disabilities in their lives. Brianna changed her career plans from education to nursing, but hopes to live and work in Ames after finishing her degree. “Natalie receives some special services,” I whispered. “Call us if you move to Ames. We’re always on the look-out for good providers.” She seemed genuinely excited. “Wouldn’t it be fun to hang out sometime, Natalie?” she asked.
I learned something from my impulsive, loving child. We may or may not hear from Brianna, but I feel like I could trust my instincts again (and Natalie’s) about child care providers after meeting Brianna.
Natalie taught me that, sometimes, it pays to talk to strangers!