September 14, 2010

next generation

I can't believe that I went 33 years of my life without really knowing someone with Down syndrome.  It seems hard to imagine.  I graduated from a fairly large High School - my class was 450 students.  You mean to tell me there was no one my age or even a year or two on either side of me with Down syndrome?  Or perhaps they weren't included and were off in a separate space.  And maybe they were there and I just didn't notice.

I have only one memory of actually interacting with someone with Down syndrome.  I was maybe 9 or 10 and we went to this big party every year.  The kids would all be set loose upstairs while the parents were downstairs.  More often than not, we would start a huge game of hide-and-go-seek.  There was a girl there with Down syndrome who was close to my age.  We convinced her to stand really still like a statue and that would be a good hiding place.

I can remember wondering why she believed us and I couldn't really figure it out.  Now that I think back on it, I am embarrassed about my actions.  Sure, we included her and let her play our game.  But we treated her like the little sister you didn't really want tagging along but Mom made you play with.

Now when I see an individual with Down syndrome, I feel like I want to acknowledge them with a little "I'm part of the club too".  Of course I don't because that would just be odd.  I'm so proud of my buddy and feel honored to be his Mom.  I hope that the next generation of kids growing up will think nothing of having a friend with a special need and having kids of all different abilities a part of the classroom.

September 10, 2010

letting go

Monkey bear started preschool this week.  I'm not sure who was more traumatized... her or me.  She was so brave and put on the excited face.  But when it came time for us to leave her alone, she just lost it.  First there was the look of terror in her eyes followed closely by the quivering lip.  Then came the pleas of not to leave her with big crocodile tears.  The worst part was the heart wrenching screams as I ran out of the room as quickly as possible.

When we picked her up she said she had so much fun and wants to go back.  Monkey bear claims she won't cry again.  She talked about how she took big breaths to calm herself down and did a Caillou puzzle with tears still in her eyes.  Being a stay-at-home-mom without a consistent babysitter, she rarely gets left with anyone.  I know that she needs to spread her wings and rely on herself more.

I never imagined how hard it would be for me to let go.  I understand that the most important job of a parent is to bring out the best in your child and then set them free into the world.  Letting them discover their place in the world is as vital as making sure they eat their fruits and veggies.

We were on vacation recently.  Monkey bear was too scared to sleep in the bed by herself so she climbed into bed with me.  I must admit, I don't do much better sleeping in a foreign bed than she does.  While I was laying there, feeling like a child myself, I just stared at her amazed that I was her Mom.  How could this little child rely on me so much for her safety and comfort when I couldn't even comfort myself?  How on earth did I end up being in charge?  It was a surreal moment that quickly passed.

I love that my children can constantly amaze me.  I love that look in their eye when you can just see the love bursting out of them.  No matter how many long days there may be when I don't think I can make it for even a minute more, every second is worth it.  Monkey bear may have 5 hours each week away from me followed by years of school and eventually moving out on her own.  But I know that there will always be a part of her that loves me in that special way reserved for your mom.

September 1, 2010


I was prepared for motherhood in all the practical ways.  But there were a few things that caught me by surprise.  You can never imagine how your heart will grow with each child.  People always tell you that you will never be the same, but the words don't even come close to how it feels.

Along with all the love comes a boat full of worries.  I never knew how each fever and cough would tear me up inside.  For me, the anticipation of each illness is so much worse than the reality.  I have a feeling that monitors are the work of the devil.  I can't go for more than a few minutes not being able to hear them. 

There are the daily troubles.  Are they getting enough sleep?  Is their diet balanced enough?  Should I be doing more art projects or playing more board games?  Why are they crying?

I also worry about what the future will bring for both of them.  Will they have broken hearts?  Will they find their place in this world?  Will they find true friends?  Will they live long, healthy lives?  It's so hard to imagine these precious little ones as teenagers trying to navigate through peer pressure.  Will they be prepared and have enough confidence to make it through?

Then there are the worries specific to my buddy.  Will he be able to live independently?  Will the kids be mean to him?  Will kids be mean to monkey bear because of my buddy?   Will it hurt so much more when he is teased as a teenager?

I'm not sure if my heart will every stop feeling unsettled.  Is there ever an age when your kids are free from your concerns?  I know, even at my ripe old age, when my mom comes to visit, she tells me when it is time to go to bed.