Recently, we were on a great adventure (aka running from hurricane Irma with four toddlers) that landed us in my small hometown staying at the late grandmother of my childhood best friend’s home. What a crazy turn of events that led to this moment but these crazy moments are what life is made of! Oh, it was magnificent! Four generations hitting the open road and spending every minute laughing instead of worrying about what we could have possibly lost in the hurricane. After all, we have experienced loss. We have experienced the possibility of loss. And yet, we are together and no longer worry about such things.
I have four incredible yet different grandchildren with their own way of showing love and their own way of driving me absolutely batty! But that was always the plan. When Ashley and Chelsea were pregnant with my girls and due a day apart, I told them repeatedly to never compare milestones. This was before I knew that I would be blessed with a grandchild with DS. This was before I knew which girl would arrive first. This was before I witnessed both of their entrances into this world. I remembered raising my own children and knew that each child was different. However, I also knew that each child needed the same consistency.
At one point in my life, I was a long term substitute for the “special needs” class in my hometown. I met a young lady named Sylvia (and I pray that this reaches her and her mom who have inspired me for so many years without knowing). Sylvia entered the classroom one day and asked me to tie her shoes. Her mother, who had walked her into the classroom, quickly scolded her and told her that she knew how to do this and that it was wrong to make people work harder because she wanted attention. Oh, I cannot tell you how often I have used that line with all of my grandangels. But, to move to my point, she taught me that it is possible for all children to learn everything both academic and social so long as they have guides to help them along their way.
This is what I explained to my son the day they told him that they were testing Gloria for DS. This is what I knew in my heart to be true. This was the line that I would not cross with my first grandchild. She would be loved and guided but she would also be expected to be good and to learn everything that she could. She would be different because we all are, but she would not be treated “special” in her home.
With that said, we have all agreed, as a family, that this would be our approach to DS. We would understand that it may take her longer to do certain things but this would not be an excuse to NOT do them. And you would not believe how much this has helped her (and the other three). They all pace themselves together. They all push each other to the top. They fuss with each other. Share with each other. Tattle on each other. They do everything together. Gloria gets more time, but she does not get “special” treatment any more than they ALL do.
Now, to move forward, I have to give you a little insight on my girl. Gloria Ann is the sweetest child. Her favorite activity is going to one side of the room and running, with open arms, towards the adults and making us guess which one is going to get her hugs. She cracks up when the ones not chosen pretend to cry and then runs back to do it again. This can go on for hours! She helps to pick up toys in the evening and also helps to dump out the numerous toy boxes in the morning. She eats well and carries her plate to the counter when she is finished. She is beginning to verbalize better but still uses some sign language for clarity. Most often we see “more” and “please.” When her signs do not get her whatever she was asking for, then her bottom lip trembles and she drops to the floor in a tantrum which can also last for a long time. She waits for her attention. Unlike the other children who will tug and pull at whoever is on my lap, Gloria will wait for my lap to be empty and then climb on up. She does not fuss at bedtime. She goes straight to her “big girl bed” and covers upon command. In general, she is a typical and well behaved child.
She does, as they all do, have her moments and habits that we have to address. For instance, Gloria likes to chew on things. This was never really a problem before she started school other than the poor Barbie dolls who lost the shape of their hands. However, now that she is out in the world, I have been worried that she may put something in her mouth that could hurt her so I have been working consistently on this. We are starting to make progress which makes me one happy Gigi.
This consistency has led me to this post. You see, we were staying with friends during Hurricane Irma and, like most people, they were not sure what to expect from Gloria. Four toddlers in a house that they don’t know is no joke! We said “no” “stop” “don’t put that in your mouth” “don’t lick that” “give that back to him/her” and “sit” more often because as soon as one was finished the next one would start. I do not consider this to be bad, just magnified from what most people face due to the number of children. Anyway, my best friend Heather, whose parents were hosting our evacuation, spoke to my daughter, Ashley on the phone. She said, “I was so upset yesterday when my father announced that I would not believe how they treat Gloria.” My daughter bucked and said “WHAT?” Heather laughed and said “Exactly! That’s how I felt but then he said ‘they treat her exactly the same and so do the other kids and it is beautiful!'”
To me, that was the best compliment that I could have received. I realize that few people will understand this but there is a method behind our madness!
All children are different and all children are special but, I have found, that all children just want to be allowed to be children. Let them learn. Tell them they can. Expect them to and they will surprise you!
To all my babies, be the best “you” that you can be!