A Kentucky mom’s post is showing the immense power in the kindness children show toward each other.
On July 23, Stephanie Skaggs posted a photo of her 5-year-old daughter Baylee, who has autism, having fun Hurricane Bay water park at Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville. In the caption, she shared a moving story about that day.
Addressing “the mom in the baby water park at Kentucky Kingdom,” Skaggs explained that going to the water park can be a challenge for Baylee, who is mostly non-verbal and has trouble coping with unexpected change. That day, she was getting accustomed to the routine of waiting in line for her turn to go down the water slide, but other children cut in front of her.
“[Baylee] really doesn’t mind much that she had to wait longer, but is very upset that the steps of the routine she just learned are now out of whack,” Skaggs wrote. “And to her it feels like the end of the world!”
Worried that the situation would escalate into a meltdown, the mom was pleasantly surprised when a little girl at the front of the line looked up and said “she can go ahead of me.” A little later, someone else cut Baylee in line, but a little boy, who observed what had happened and understood she had special needs, offered her his place at the front.
“I was struck that two different children would be so intuitive and kind,” Skaggs wrote. “Like most autistic children, Baylee does not LOOK any different than any other child. And it’s not really immediately obvious by her behavior either. It takes some observation and usually children their age don’t realize she has autism.”
The mom said she praised the little boy and girl who let Baylee go ahead of them. “I told them both how great it was that they looked out for someone who was different … and the difference that small acts of kindness make even if it doesn’t seem like much,” she wrote. “They really touched my heart.”
When she later saw them together, Skaggs realized they were brother and sister. She asked them to point out their mother and then approached the woman to praise her parenting.
Addressing the thoughtful children’s mom, she wrote in her post:
“I made sure to let your kids know how nice it was for them to be kind and understanding, but I wanted YOU to know that you are raising two wonderful children. When I came to you and told you about my experience with your kids and told you that they were super kids and you are doing a great job, you said ‘I don’t know about that.’ Well, mom, you are. A small gesture like theirs may not seem like much. But I promise it was.”
As a mom of a child with autism, Skaggs said she is filled with worry and fear about the negative way people perceive Baylee because she’s a little different. But the kindness those children displayed at the water park gave her a sense of hope for her daughter’s future.
“When I looked at those sweet little faces, filled with pride as I praised them, it made me happy to know that more moms are raising their children the way you are!” she concluded her post. “So I just wanted to take the opportunity again to thank you and let you know you are doing a really really good job!”
Skaggs’ Facebook post has been shared almost 10,000 times. The mom told The Huffington Post that she decided to share her story because she was so touched by those children that she couldn’t stop thinking about the experience.
Hoping to give peace of mind to fellow parents of kids with special needs, Skaggs typed out the post and it quickly spread across Facebook. While Skaggs wanted the mom she met at the water park to see the post, she did not anticipate it would actually reach her. But within hours of posting the story, she received a Facebook message from Laura, the woman she spoke to that day.
Laura said her children, Matthew and Grace, were also touched by their experience that day. “She said they talked about Baylee all day after we parted ways,” Skaggs recalled.
The two moms became friends on Facebook and remain in touch. Skaggs said she’s received positive comments and messages from people around the world, from South Africa to Egypt.
“It means so much to me that Laura and her children can see the far reaching impact of their kind gestures that they thought were nothing really!” the mom told HuffPost. “My hopes are that this simple act of kindness will spread and inspire people to just be kind … not just to children or adults with special needs but that being kind to anyone can reach so many people in so many ways. It is definitely worth the effort!”
Though parents of kids with special needs feel that they must be vigilant, Skaggs said she hopes her experience inspires them to let their guard down and live in the moment sometimes.
“I would hope that, like me, they will have a renewed sense of hope and trust in those around them and are able to at least sometimes, even if it is jut for a few fleeting moments, just let that wall down and breathe and enjoy those moment with their kids,” she said. “To be able to stop and delight in their happiness and relish in their excitement and not be so worried about what everyone around them is thinking.”
Laura, Matthew and Gracie allowed Skaggs to do just that. The mom said they’re planning to get the kids together to play soon, maybe at Kentucky Kingdom again.