Yes, the rest of the blogging world is posting about Christmas cheer, Peace and Goodwill, festive recipes, you name it. And while I like all of those in their place, and it is Christmas Eve, I'm not going all Christmassy on you. I'll be posting about this little girl:
On the next-to-last day before Christmas break, Mrs. K., her Special Ed teacher, called me before the bus brought her home from 6th grade. "She's had a HORRIBLE day." I was still reeling from "horrible," which is not a word you often hear the grandmotherly Mrs. K. use, but there was more. "She CUT her HAIR... meltdown in 1st period... wrote her name in a library book...another meltdown..." Augh! Where did this come from? But truth be told, nobody does random like my dear daughter. Maybe the random gene is on the 21st chromosome.
So as I cut her hair in an attempt to even out her self-inclicted half-bob, I used police interview techniques to attempt to reconstruct her day. Turns out, in 1st period they were working on a poster for a student teacher who was leaving and she and her team members had a difference of opinion about how much artistic coloring she should do. "And Matthew grabbed my arm. Like this..." (she demonstrated) "Not Matthew J." (her best friend from 3 years ago) "... another Matthew. He's a boy." She later acknowledged that Matthew did this not to be mean, but because "He was trying to get my attention." But however it happened, she had disrupted Ms. W.'s class and would need to apologize to her.
Then there was 3rd period math, where Mrs. K. said she didn't get anything done. But here she insisted "I was trying to do my math, but David distracted me. David doesn't talk." But he does make noise. Fair enough, it was a minor issue when taken in perspective. I tiptoed around the library book issue as requested by Mrs. K. I really wanted to know about the hair. "What were you thinking when you cut your hair in 7th period?" I asked.
As so often is the case, a Disney Princess is at the root of the matter. As near as I can reconstruct, she was trying to reenact the climactic scene of Tangled, where Rapunzel cuts her magical hair and saves the hero's life while Mother Gothel meets her well-deserved fate. But she was supposed to be working on writing a paragraph about Tuck Everlasting. Oh well, she needed a haircut anyway, and it doesn't look too ragged after my repairs. But because 7th period was her one academic full-inclusion class, she would need to apologize to Ms. P. the next day, too. That was 3 apologies to teachers, and possibly some more to students who were only trying to help her. And for us at home, the only evidence that she had had a bad day was her cut hair. Her attitude that evening was really pretty chipper, all things considered. If you could bottle what she has and sell it as anti-depressant...
Two days ago, Steve dropped off Primigenitus at his job at the local Kumon tutoring center, then took Quarta to play at a nearby park for a bit... she wanted to ride her scooter someplace different. Turns out, Quarta had asked Tertia right before leaving if she wanted to come, too, but hadn't understood or hadn't taken the time to wait because she wanted to go RIGHT NOW. Well, Tertia did want to go, but since Daddy and little sister were already gone in the car, she decided to put on her coat and go after them. I was recovering from a headache and was sewing in my cubby so didn't hear her go out, Secundus was asleep, and 45 minutes or so later when Steve and Quarta came back we all assumed Tertia was reading in her room, until Quarta told us she wasn't there. We looked all around the house, then thought to check her coat and it was missing. So we figured she might have tried to go to one of the parks on our street, which she knows how to get to. We split up to check them both, but she wasn't there. A few frenzied cell-phone conversations later and I told Steve that we would have to call 911. But 911 called our home number just as Steve got there and asked if he was missing a little girl.
She had walked all the way to the Kumon center, well over a mile and requiring her to cross at least 2 busy streets, before friendly passersby had spotted her and called 911. She and the sherriff's deputy were waiting for Steve at the Chevron station. I was still huffing and puffing my way back from the farther of the 2 parks on our street. She had never been to the park Steve and Quarta went to, otherwise I'm sure she would have found it (but it's not the kind of park you want your kids to go to alone). She was able to give her name and phone number to the policeman, although her address was a bit garbled.
So the joke was on us, at least a little bit. She's smart enough to figure out the clues about where people are going and stubborn enough to get there most of the way on her own. But if we don't slow down the pace of our lives for her, and take the time to explain in simple terms why she needs to have a buddy when she leaves the house and tell people what she plans to do, we'll all get the lesson about slowing down, the hard way.
Maybe this is why God often gives children with Down syndrome to older mothers (I maintain that I wasn't an older mother when she was born, but I guess I am now!) It's His way of telling us to slow down, focus on the really important stuff, and enjoy life as it happens. And I guess this is where I bring the post back to Christmas and make the obvious tie-in. I'm content with a not-quite-perfect house, not-completely-tidy kitchen (and living room, and dining room...), a modest number of presents under the tree, and a still-unfinished to-do list; so long as my family is well and we remember what is truly important in life.