Sunday, February 11, 2007

Insert Evil Laugh

I feel a bit like James Bond this morning, plotting and planning the next step in our day with an eye to the future and a plan to hatch along the way. Ciarra is 8 years old now, and beginning to be a big girl. This last year has been a mixture of goals met, goals adjusted, and new goals made. I have been reminded several times this year that Ciarra has Down syndrome. You'de think I would have that all clear in my mind, funny thing is sometimes I forget. She is such a typical kid, her life is so normal. And yet, as she grows there is this steadily widening gap between her and "typical kids". In many ways, I am grateful for the gap. She, unlike a few of them, is not yet lying or being devious. She has not yet done a bad deed for which she hasnt taken the blame for. She is honest to a fault, kind to an extreme. But the gap brings with it other things, too, things that set her apart in ways that arent as easy to digest for this mom who wants only the best for her daughter. Things like the first cracks in the social scene, that slight lilt in the voice of her friends who sometimes now mother hen her versus talking to her. Or who lovingly smile at her as they walk off with their regular friends to go do BIG kid stuff. Ciarra keeps up nicely, but even so, it seems the sepaeration has begun, and in some ways they are outgrowing her. She still has wonderful friendships, dont get me wrong. She still has her same two best best friends, Jade and Jacob. They still call her all the time, they still call out her name on the bus "Ciarra, sit with ME!" But some of the other kids are moving into the roles they will assume as adults, the leaders, the planners, the followers. Ciarra is not a leader, in most ways. She is not a follower either, thankfully. She lies somewhere squarely in the middle, very sure of herself and opinionated (where'de she get THAT?) and yet desperately bonded to her classmates, all of whom she calls her "friends". Some of them are, for sure, true friends who welcome her with a hug each morning. But to some of them, the morning hug is passe, they are BIG now, with little time for her halting speech and little kid ways. None have ever been unkind to her, and I believe they all genuinely care about her. But like all of us, not everyone is going to be your best friend or think you hung the moon. Kids mature into people who judge, the innocense of total acceptance is teetering, and soon enough, it might not be all that cool to hug anyone, ever. For now, I still smile and thank God when I see her and she hasnt yet seen me, walking down the hall to lunch or delivering notes to the office, and there is a girl on either side of her, holding her hands, skipping down the hall, laughing and smiling. In my mind, I realize that these moments become fleeting, and soon they will all be hurtling into middle school, and she will be lucky to have those moments of friendship. They will be less often, they will be less spontaneous. They will be more thought out, a decision made to include her because it is the right thing to do. I am not fooling myself, childhood is brutal. Having DS will certainly not make it easier in some ways. And so I plot and plan, and try to think ahead and imagine the future. Which brings us back to today.
We live in a very rural community, where there are exactly TWO children with DS in the entire district. The other child is a boy a few months younger. He is a wonderful boy, and I love him. But even Ciarra seems to be frustrated with him at times, he doesnt want to play much, he only wants to watch tv. Other than the DS, there is little they have in common. He has never been to the movies. He cannot handle the noise of the concerts Ciarra loves. Many of the things she loves, he is scared of.
I want her to meet people with DS who enjoy the things she enjoys, who love sports and music, the movies, bowling, roller skating, and all the other things 8 and 9 and 10 year old love. I want her to have a peer who is LIKE her, who lives life exuberantly, happily, joyfully. I want her to not feel so alone, with her DS. I want her to know that there are others out there with DS who are just like her. They have bright futures, parents who make it all possible, and are not scared of their own shadows. I want a reach for the sky kinda kid in our lives. I want other parents who believe there is no limit to what they can do. I want a fellow traveler for her. I want a little boy who is raised to know no barriers, who will never stop believing in himself, or in her, as they grow up.
And so, I am taking my darling daughter 2 towns away this afternoon, to meet a little boy who is so much like her he could be her twin, in an open gym program for kids with disabilities. I have an eye on the future, and I feel a little devious. I am in a way letting go of the belief that she is "just like other kids" and grabbing on to "she is unique" and therefore requires someone just as unique. I hope they hit it off, I hope they become friends. I hope it is not wrong of me to want this. Because I can see him in a little suit in a few years, at the 5th grade school dance, laughing with my daughter and truly being her friend, with no thought, and no worries about what anyone else thinks, and no concerns for anything but living in the moment.

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