Sarah Stultz: How can you help lighten another’s load?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

From his birth, my son has been behind other children his age when it came to hitting growth milestones.

When other children were walking, he was still utilizing other means to get around, and when other children were running, he was still learning how to walk.

But little by little, he hit the milestones and before we knew it, he was running — and running fast!

Ever since then, I’ve always called him “a runner” — you know, those kids who can take off in the blink of an eye and before you know it, they’re a block ahead of you.

I thought this would only happen for a few years, but my son is now 9 and it is still a concern that often gives this mama a lot of anxiety. With his developmental delays, he has still not grasped the danger that can come to him if he runs into the street without looking for cars.

One time Landon took off running in our old neighborhood and ended up all the way near the hospital. If it wasn’t for a kind neighbor who recognized what was happening and pulled into the emergency room entrance to cut him off — allowing me time to catch up — Landon likely would have kept running.

When we go to the grocery store or public events this makes my nerves on edge, particularly when there are vehicles involved. We all know it can only take a split second for something bad to happen, and for this reason I don’t like to make it a habit to go to stores without double adult reinforcement.

But even with double or triple adult reinforcement, sometimes we still have scares.

This weekend, we ventured out to watch the Third of July Parade and the fireworks like many others in the community. We went into these events knowing they would be packed, and I tried to think of all the possibilities of things that could happen so we could be prepared. That meant arriving early to find the absolute closest parking spot we could and trying to find ways to keep Landon occupied in his seat as cars continued to pass by while we waited for the parade to start.

For the fireworks, we made many of the same preparations.

Despite our preparations, my heart stopped a few times as Landon took off once before the start of the parade and ran through the Walgreens parking lot and a second time right as the fireworks ended and he bolted into the sea of people as we were folding up our chairs.

Thankfully, Landon successfully made it inside Walgreens  unscathed the first day, and my husband was able to catch up to him the second day after the fireworks. A crisis was averted both times, and for that I was extremely grateful.

To those out there who see a parent struggling with a special needs child, or any child for that matter — whether it’s at a community event, the grocery store or elsewhere — don’t be afraid to lend a hand. It means more than you may know.

I had a friend who did just that while we were waiting for the fireworks to start and who offered me a break for a few minutes. Though I did not take her up on her offer, it meant a lot to know that someone was aware of our family’s struggles — and not only aware but willing to lighten the load.

I thank her, and hope we can remember that we’re all in this together.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.