the foot


Dear Ms D,

I wanted to explain.

You see, I know that your end of year thank you gift is .. well, a bit unconventional.

It’s actually, though you won’t know this, representative of my journey toward true acceptance of my daughter’s differences, but we’ll get back to that.

You see, we were looking for a small token – something that would somehow acknowledge our gratitude for all that you do for her every day. And when we say, “our” I really mean “my” but we’ll get back to that too — another time.

So there we were, wandering around the shop in the mall, when Brooke handed me the foot. And she said with a smile, “Let’s get THIS for Ms D!” And, without thinking, I said, “Oh, honey, that’s silly!”

And she said,”YOU find something. I’m going to go out THERE,” as she pointed out of the shop and to the fountain that she loves to watch in the middle of the mall. So I asked Katie to go outside with her so that I could find an “appropriate” gift.

And as I searched for something that wasn’t a foot, I heard Brooke’s voice in my head saying, “YOU find something.”

But this time, I felt the weight of it, and I heard the sting of rejection in it, and I internalized the accusation packaged inside the words.

And I realized just how callous and hurtful my off-handed dismissal of HER idea had been.

This is the first year that Brooke has been involved — truly involved — in the process of choosing teacher gifts from start to finish. This is the first time that she’s come with me for EVERY shopping trip and helped to choose items for everyone. The very first time. And when she made her choice, I allowed my need for conformity to overshadow the beauty of her burgeoning self-determination.

So I turned around and went back for the foot. I brought it to the cashier and asked for a gift bag for it. And when Brooke and Katie came back into the shop, I showed it to Brooke on the counter, there with all of our other carefully chosen tokens of gratitude.

My journey is imperfect, my evolution woefully incomplete. But I’m getting there. Because I love my girl and I am trying to remember that  honoring her choices, no matter how unconventional, matters. And because I know you. And I think I’m right to assume that you’d prefer a foot from my girl than something perfectly appropriate that she really had nothing to do with choosing.

Thank you, Ms D. For everything that you do.

I really hope you enjoy your foot.



37 thoughts on “the foot

  1. My daughter chooses a flashlight for every gift, for everybody. Because he/she will need it if the storm knocks out the lights. Little ones, big ones, ones that “moo”. When you think about it, it really is a great gift, and no one can really ever have too many!

  2. A few years ago, my daughter had to write about a “hero”, (other than Mom or Dad). She said she wanted to write about the trash man. I asked why, and she said “it’s a hard job and they come every week.” I thought it was logical, the teacher evidently didn’t. But I also taped a copy of her essay to our trash bin, and we received the most touching letter from the trash collector. Which gave me great satisfaction when I shared it with her teacher. Enjoy the foot Ms. D!

    • Oh I love it. And I hope that the teacher’s mind was opened as much as the trash collector’s heart was touched. 😉

    • Many years ago my son wrote about the trash collector too with great affection (partly because he would let him ride in the truck on special occasions as it went down our block). We gave it to our trash collector. Years later I walked up to the truck to give our collector a Christmas present and saw the old letter taped up on his sun visor. Thanks for bringing that memory back. 🙂

  3. Though they appreciate every gift they are given, most of my teacher friends have told me that it’s the notes and the cards that they treasure… I hope Ms. D sees this post!

    • I sent it to her ;). And her reply was priceless. I’ve asked her if I can share it. Waiting to hear back 😉

      • This is Ms D’s response to the foot and the letter. I’m so grateful for her permission to share it as well as .. well, you’ll see …


        I loved it when it was just a foot. It is funny and quirky, and somehow useful at the same time. And it made me laugh, really laugh. That is hard to do on June 24th. But now… now I will treasure my foot for all that it represents. Thank you for including me on this journey. I enjoy every destination and rest stop along the way.

        [Ms D]

  4. I am sitting here having flashbacks…those moments of parental dismissal. Honestly, I am just as quick to do that with all my children. That’s what adults do to children when we think “we know better.” When, truly, maybe we don’t. Maybe that is why I am so quick to react to those who seem to judge me or my girls. Maybe I know how guilty I am of the same. And it is simply easier to point out the speck in the eye of someone else. I rush to judge my children’s behaviors and choices and opinions far too often. I often simply dismiss them completely. Maybe, just maybe, our ASD kiddos make us better parents…no better people. At times like this, I think of my girls as emissaries from a different, more evolved planet, and I wonder how often they shake their heads, wondering just exactly how long it is going to take me to catch on to the basic concepts of human dignity.

  5. This morning, my son and I were dropping his sister off at her summer school in front of the same luggage store we drop her at every day. And, as he’s done almost every day, he pointed at the brightly colored but mostly neon pink plaid backpack that he has decided he loves, and told me yet again that it’s the one he wants when he starts middle school in the fall. I was THIS CLOSE to finally telling him that I thought it was simply too girly for him, no matter how pretty it is, or how big a smile he gets every time he looks at it. Instead, I swallowed and simply said, as I do every morning, “Sure is one nice backpack!” I’ve decided that I’m going to take this as a personal attagirl from you to me today, because I need it so that tomorrow I can say, “Sure is one nice backpack” again. (No promises that I will, in the end, buy it for him; his year, moving from gen ed to almost entirely sped classes in a new school with literally seven times the number of kids at his old school, is going to be transition enough. I really do worry about the bullying factor of that backpack. But I don’t have to belittle him as I make that decision. And, maybe, in the end, I’ll give in. Because everyone does deserve a backpack that makes them smile, don’t they?)

  6. I love this so much. I love it especially because I have been known, on too many occasions, to dismiss my 7yo daughter’s choices and preferences as “silly”. And I want to stop doing that. She has not been diagnosed (yet) with anything beyond a very high IQ and ADD, but whether it turns out that there is more to her story or not, I want to be the kind of mother that honors my child’s choices, whenever possible. Thank you for guiding my way.

  7. Perfect. I had been mulling over which coffee shop gift card to get the team members, not really wanting to get them at all. This post made me realize I didn’t want to get them because they are too “mainstream” to be coming from my unique kid. I love that you went with Brooke’s idea, and will involve my kid next year. It certainly takes the pressure off me. This year they all got colorful hanging paper oragami birds, as they all helped my boy to soar!

  8. My 7 year old daughter wanted a Ninja Turtle Shirt and I bought it for her, but I didn’t feel good about it because it’s a “boy” shirt…but after reading this post I realize that I bought it because it is one of the few things she asked for and simply, it made her happy!! You help me to remember to honor her choices, and for that, I thank you!

  9. Hi Jess,
    I love reading your posts. I am a local special education teacher who is also autistic. It seems like you and Brooke are all set with services but if you know anyone looking for educational support or consultation from a certified teacher who is also on the spectrum, I would greatly appreciate if you would pass my info along. I’ll travel anywhere within an hour or so of greater Boston.
    Thanks so much!
    “Life Skills Teacher”

  10. LOL I always told my mom when she took my son shopping for gifts for me to let him pick…no matter what it was…bc he picked it…she didnt always but sometimes she did and the stories of those gifts are so much more…I once got a My little Pony from McDonalds…Sean was about 6 and told my mom to go through the driveway and hed duck down in the seat so mom could say it was from a girl and wouldnt see it wasn’t…just that he put that much thought and effort into it made it one of the better gifts I’ve gotten

    • Oh my god, that’s FABULOUS! On my 40th birthday, Brooke told Luau that my gift should be a pink teddy bear. Yes it was, and I adore it. 😉

  11. I was putting my DOAM learnings into action on the weekend when my 3.5 yr old ASD daughter helped with her teacher’s Thank you cards. I asked her, of her special Ed support worker / angel, Teacher Carol, “what can you thank Teacher Carol for?”. H’s response: love.

    I wrote it down. Of course! I asked, what else does she do?

    “she helps me go wee wee.”

    I wrote it down. (Hesitating.) But she was thankful for the love and comfort of Teacher C.

    They were her words, from a girl who used to use only PECs to communicate. These words were all hers and they were perfect.

    Love the foot!

  12. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Different time, different place, but the kid is just like her mom.
    Love you,

  13. Jess, your mum and dad are awesome. They are full of acceptance and praise. It’s no wonder that your eldest offspring is the most amazingly gorgeous and accepting girl. With you guys for parents and grandparents, she couldn’t be anything else. And your youngest? Amazing amazing kid. The foot was the perfect, unique and thoughtful present. I have recently, 3 nights ago, put my 2 kids in the same room. Most people say they’re “too old” to share. Miss M is 7 1/2 and Aspie/ADHD/sleep issues, and Master C is almost 3 and autistic/sensory issues/speech issues/sleep issues. We have had months and months of dreadful defiance from Miss M, and lack of sleep from both of them.
    Until I put them together. Now they are both asleep by 8pm, and they sleep right through. They like the comfort of having someone else in the room with them.
    I love reading your blog: I wish I could be as optimistic as you. You have a way with words, you know exactly how to write so that we are almost there with you.
    And some of us, in our own ways, are.

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