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More Than Just Irish Dance

This is a re-post from 2010.
The night after St. Patrick’s Day long-time, dear friends of ours invited us to their ten-year old daughter’s exhibition of Irish Dance at a local college. Logan and Ben were my companions on this adventure – an adventure because the event was a good 25 minutes away and did not begin until after 7pm. And did I mention it was a school night?

Ben sensed we were going somewhere different. Before we got out of the car, Ben’s arms and legs were moving a million miles an hour. This was a sure sign he was excited and happy to be out and about.

Taking Ben somewhere new comes along with a lot of worry – Will I be able to get Ben easily to the location? Will Ben behave? Will he make his noises? Will we have to leave early because he’s not enjoying it? How will others react to him? I usually push past the worry, hope for the best and fly by the seat of my pants if needed.

When things go well, an emotion I have not been able to label, takes hold of me.  It gets me almost every time when we go somewhere and Ben truly enjoys himself. I always tear up.  I feel an overpowering sense of pride for Ben. I feel happiness for him when I see he is happy, engaged and content.

Some of my tears express sadness – Ben’s involvement is limited, kids stare or make awkward comments and some of it is just the continuous cycle of working through the emotions of raising a child with special needs.

A big emotional investment goes into taking a child with special needs out. That’s probably why many people remain at home. It’s safe. But when you do take the risk – it pays off. It can pay off big, like it did that night.

First, the logistical worries were immediately relieved with the help of my friends. They met me in the parking lot, found a space close to the entrance, and they also saved us seats in the front row.  And I had not even asked for any of this help. Second, their daughter welcomed Ben like she would any kid. She said, "Hi Ben." Seems small, but means a lot. Finally, the Irish Dance instructor offered Ben a sign to hold up during a demonstration of several different jigs and dances.

To say that Ben LOVED the event would be an understatement. He took in the musicians, the dancers, the college students milling about, the worried parents scurrying around. He took it all in and did not want the distraction of food or a friendly face to get in the way of his observations. For the most part, Ben was silent for the two hour presentation. His attention was on the event and all its beautiful parts.

And with me sitting beside him silently shedding my tears, Ben became a part of it all in his own way. Perhaps this emotion I am unable to label is love. An overwhelming love for this unique little boy who has an appreciation for Spud, fish sticks, milkshakes and now, Irish Dance.


  1. This was such a beautiful, amazing post in so many ways that I can't even begin to count, Vanessa.

    I just love what you said here... "A big emotional investment goes into taking a child with special needs out. That’s probably why many people remain at home. It’s safe. But when you do take the risk – it pays off."

    So perfectly said. It conveys all of the hopes, dreams, hurts -- all of it. What a great reminder you've given here about how worth the effort it is.

    I was in tears by the end of this post, inspired by the beauty of Ben's indomitable spirit, your love for him, and your priceless friends.

    Being different isn't easy, but you just proved that it can be breathtakingly beautiful.

    Thank you so much for sharing from your heart.


  2. I am one of the irish dancers dancing that night. My name is Lauren and I am 19 years old. I noticed Ben and couldn't get over how much he seemed to be enjoying the dancing. Thank you for sharing this with us!! Ben seemed to have such a beautiful personality, I just wish I had been able to meet him. Thank you!
    Lauren Vickers

  3. Awesome, Vanessa. I admire you for your courage and the beauty of your attitude.
    This is such an incredible thing for Ben and I hope you guys get to enjoy many more Irish Dance performances.
    Faith White


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