It's almost 2pm, my husband is napping after his regularly scheduled very late night (early morning) due to that super exciting Friday Night Magic. He got home about 12 hours ago, and so far this morning he's moved more than he does on a typical Saturday and Sunday combined. Braska's asleep too, after a big morning, and I relieved her of her bouncy chair just BEFORE she fell asleep this time...even though I love the alternative option. So I thought this is my chance to sit down and actually do what I thought would be the norm for the blog...just sharing thoughts.
This morning we went to the Stay N Play Playgroup hosted by the University of Illinois Early Childhood Development Lab. Braska was chosen to participate in this group, and I was glad to have the chance for her to interact with other kids and with students who would learn from her too. I thought that there would be some other kids with developmental delays, maybe even DS, but that wasn't the case. She was the lone "non-typical" kid. Initially, I wasn't sure how this would go. The students and supervising faculty are super nice. They obviously love kids and playing with and teaching them. The group we're in is 8 children, ages 7 months to 15 months. We're at the high end of the chronological age and closer to the low end of the developmental age. But I figured at least we wouldn't be the only one to just sit and watch, playing kind of our own. I was wrong, though.
Little Kathryn, 15 months, was crawling up in her own chair, running like a champ, sharing toys, and obeying instructions. She was just adorable, adopted from an Asian country, super petite (only a pound more than Braska), and obviously very smart. Even the youngest one, 8 1/2 month old Madeline, was crawling all over the place like a pro. There was Phoena (fee-na), Reece, and Sheila all running about and happy when they had a toy they liked. Alina was 10 months and cute as a button. She sat next to us at snack and devoured her colored goldfish. Then there was Braxton, the lone boy, 15 months, and wow...I steered Braska out of his radar whenever possible. He was big, dangerous, handsy, and one seriously drooling, coughing, and snotting machine. His mom was very nice, but she had her hands full. Poor guy didn't know what to do with so many cute girls within his reach!
Times like these, which haven't been all that frequent, usually surprise me by invoking a reaction that I don't expect. I sat there for the first several minutes, watching the others run around and play and share, thinking that this was just not going to work. God bless M for going with me. I didn't even ask him to go. I didn't even hint at it in the least. I just assumed he'd stay home and Braska and I would check it out. But he went, and I was glad to see some other dads there too.
It's not that I don't know the reality of our situation. It's not that I am not aware of Braska's delays and limitations. It's not that I'm embarrassed of her delays. It's not even that I'm resentful of the "normal" kids or their parents. I think it's more that I feel the need to explain things. I want to defend her, show that she's not without merit or value. I tend to rely on her good looks, silly as that sounds. Everyone gushes over how adorable she is, everywhere we go. I've never had a negative comment about her at all in public, which I know happens to alot of parents in my shoes. The glasses are a big draw, everyone cooing and asking about them. She gets compliments on her hair and her snazzy outfits, and I am proud that she gets positive reactions. I'm admittedly big on appearances, so I'm pleased that people find my kid cute and not repulsive. That's natural and acceptable, right? I know it's an issue for me to work on, my shallow nature regarding the outside. But in these situations, that's my comfortable place. That's where I know we can move the conversation to and relax.
Today we participated, she played, we sang along with "The Hello Song" and it's close relative, "The Goodbye Song." I think it's good for Braska to have this kind of exposure, since she spends 96% percent of her time with just us, and the remainder is spent with a very small circle of friends who we don't see that often. The students and supervisor were great, especially Mary-Kelsey, our assigned student for the semester. They asked about what things they could incorporate for Braska, what types of toys or items that she would best respond to or that would assist in meeting her developmental goals in EI. It's very nice of them to take these things into consideration. I have to think they thought that she would be an interesting subject for the class and this part of the semester requirements for the students, or we wouldn't have been chosen for the group. They had all her background and info from the beginning. Mary-Kelsey is a speech pathology student, and I say it never hurts to have more exposure to speech/language and feeding help.
Introductions were done of the kids, but not with ages or any other info. So we gleaned ages just from hearing people ask and answer while the kids were playing. This is where I felt a bit lost. I didn't get to explain why she didn't crawl to get toys. I didn't get to explain why she was the only one at the table who shuffled her snack but didn't put it anywhere near her mouth, why her sippy cup was the only one not touched. I didn't even get to use the words Down syndrome. Is that good? Should I be glad it wasn't an issue? Or did they all just know and ignore it? Did they just think "something's different about that kid" and leave it at that? I don't know. I wonder if they were trying to be all about the inclusion thing and didn't want to make us feel different or like a stand-out.
I don't know. I guess I'm still processing. As I sit here, I'm not upset at all. I'm not hurt or disappointed or anything. Please don't think that or read that into the picture. I'm just thinking through the morning. I wonder why I reacted like I did. I mean, I know why I kept her from Braxton's reach.
Above all, I'm proud of her for not flipping out in a situation that was very overwhelming. The noise and the people and the unfamiliar place. These are things that often are too much for her individually, but together, I was sure it would bring a withdrawal, at least. But she didn't seem to mind. She watched at first, kind of let it all sink in and process, then she played. Mostly she played with the things we gave her, she's easy like that. But there were a couple things that she's used with her therapists, so she particularly liked those. She babbled a little, and she didn't mind at all sitting in a little kid chair at the table for about 10 minutes playing with colored goldfish and banging on the table. I'm anxious to see how it goes as we move forward. This lasts til the end of March or early April, I think. Every Saturday morning, we'll go and play. I bet by the end things will be very different, so that will be fun to see. And most of all, I'll probably learn alot and work through my own internal things. It's about time, I'd say.
Way to go, Braska Bear. Thanks for going, M.