>> Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Maren is thriving in 5th grade. Her math skills are soaring and her reading blows me away. I love hearing her read every sign we pass, and the novelty of that just doesn't wear off. I grin when she wants to read the entire menu at Cheesecake Factory before she orders (15 or so pages), and the server can just wait while she does it (and I know he or she will be well compensated for his or her patience). Lately, she reads me bedtime stories instead of the other way around.
I delight in the things that might otherwise frustrate or annoy other parents. Maren has truly taught me to appreciate the small things and follow my bliss. So, when she ordered Papa John's a few weeks ago, I reveled in her amazing self-help skills, and when I see her basket full of purchases at Amazon, I'm grateful I removed my credit card number from their files :-). I let her pay at grocery stores and if she holds up the line a bit while she remembers the pin to my debit card or counts the change, so be it.
But, last weekend, I learned something amazing -- the lessons Maren teaches aren't just for me. She and her brother,Archie, were in a local production called The Jellybean Conspiracy, which brought together people with special needs and typically developing individuals. The first night of rehearsal, a man with Down syndrome asked me to take a picture of him and Archie. I didn't think much about it, but I did so happily.
Within days, Chris (the adult with DS), and Archie formed an incredible bond. They hung out during practices, talked, and worked on their dances together. By the time the show rolled around, they were inseparable. When Archie was on stage, Chris waited in the wings. When they were on stage at the same time, they were together. When Chris had snacks, he shared them with Archie. They talked about music, games, and Alabama football. And, when I asked Archie how he felt about Chris having Down syndrome and being considerably older than he is, he looked at me with an "are you kidding, lady" look. He said, "Mom. I like Chris and he is my friend. We have a lot in common." Of course, I couldn't just leave well-enough alone and I prodded, "Archie, you do know Chris is 35, right?" Disgusted with me Archie replied, "He is my friend and I don't care how old he is. We have fun together."
Well there you have it. He sees Chris as Chris, just as he sees Maren as Maren. He doesn't care about their label or their disability. Though he may be mad when Maren gets away with ordering pizza, and get annoyed that she always gets to run the debit card and hold they money, he gets IT -- the big IT --the IT most of us will never really get because we are so busy trying to label other people and force them to fit into our socially constructed boxes. He can see past the categories and preconceived notions. He is everything I am striving to be. And, for him, it just comes naturally.
They say your children are part of your heart, but somehow Archie's is already bigger than mine, and I can only hope that mine will continue to grow to accommodate all the love and acceptance he holds in his. I guess he deserves to order a pizza now and again, too. :-).