I’ve been afraid of this since she was born. There’s a phenomenon in the Down syndrome community – or well, I guess the entire community of the world – where as our kids get older and toddler cuteness wears off, something changes.
Not with us. With everyone else.
The other kids have learned to speak for themselves.
They’ve learned how to handle social cues appropriately.
They chit chat about sports and tv shows and clothes and whatever the latest craze is in the 8-year-old world.
They’ve formed their cliques and have their playdates.
My girl. In many ways, she’s a 5- or 6-year old stuck in an 8-year old’s body. She is highly attuned to social cues and the emotions of others but doesn’t always have the appropriate responses. She plays with toys and watches Disney Jr. shows her little brother is starting to grow tired of. Talking fashion with her leads immediately to princess dresses. She knows about Shopkins (are those still cool?) but would rather tell you about Vampirina or Doc McStuffins. She’s losing those chubby cheeks I fell in love with the day she was born as her face thins out.
Physically, although she is still very small for her age, she’s turning into the awkward pre-teen.
Outside the safety of our house, the patience wains.
The asks for updates on how she’s doing from relatives near and far have slowed (thanks for always asking, mom and dad) the enthusiasm for supporting her through Buddy Walks has all but completely died (thanks for showing up, mom and dad!), the interest in whatever milestone she’s hit is fading, and folks are generally just less interested. I suppose that happens with any kid.
Going out in public can be a bit of a crapshoot – if she throws a tantrum in the middle of the store… or at the Big E or at the very first playdate with her little brother’s new best friend… I do my best to avert all the averting eyes. It’s awkward, especially as I’m hoping to make friends with the other moms. Their kids are normal. They don’t know what to do with us. I don’t blame them. All you see on social media is “what not to say to moms of kids with special needs” — I don’t think that’s helping the situation.
Anyhow, I’m not sure if it’s people feeling sorry for us, feeling awkward themselves, thankful that they aren’t me?
I’m not sure what to make of this other than it’s that the toddler cuteness has worn off. I’m also not exactly sure what to do about it other than… just live our lives.
It’s just the beginning, I’m sure. We’ll work through it.
But if you’re reading this, I have a simple ask. Show up. Be interested. Reach out. Offer a hand. Don’t look the other way.
** And with that, this is my swan song post for CT Working Moms. I’ll still be around here and there with a guest post but it’s time. Thank you all for the love and support you’ve shown my little family the past four years! **