Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Little Leprechaun

Tertia gets up very early for school; the bus comes at 6:50 most mornings, and we are still recovering from Spring Forward in our house.  She usually gets downstairs a little before me, fixes her breakfast and maybe even her lunch (although I like to make sure she isn't just packing rice and applesauce).  This morning I noticed her outfit as she was eating breakfast.
She didn't have the hat then, but it was pretty obvious, she was trying to be a leprechaun.  I really was hesitant to let her go off to school that way, but there wasn't a whole lot of time to make any changes, and her natural stubbornness was starting to kick in.  Sister Quarta is down with a stomach bug and I had been up since 3:30.  So I gave in.  "Just tell everyone you're a leprechaun, and it will be okay," I told her (I hope, I was thinking.)  I shouldn't have worried.  The shorts over tights with a shirt/jacket combo cut down from a somewhat outgrown dress has that look that I call "ragamuffin chic" - Tertia excels at taking that and walking it as if she's on Project Runway.  It must have conveyed enough of the leprechaun vibe that one of her friends gave her the hat to complete the look.  When I picked her up for her orthodontist appointment (she picked green rubber bands, of course!) I was fretting a bit that her fellow-students might have made fun of her.  But she is just a little too happy-go-lucky to be a target for bullies... it must be one of those natural defensive mechanisms that kids with Down syndrome have.

That, and I have to give credit to her school.  I can't imagine a girl like Tertia being accepted and genuinely liked at the public schools I attended decades ago.  It was a huge factor in why I was really hesitant to put her, or any of my kids, in public schools.  But the climate has so vastly improved since then.  They really are on her side, and they won't tolerate unkindness to her.  I love the fact that wherever I go, as soon as people figure out I'm Tertia's mom, they start to gush.  It happened multiple times today, picking her up at the attendance office - "We LOVE her!", being greeted by a girl she has known since elementary school, then later when I returned to the school for her IEP.  And this evening when an old teacher called to see if I'd be willing to talk with another mom about her middle school experience, and then was really thrilled to talk to the leprechaun herself, who had just finished doing her dishes.

There's always a bit of a disconnect for me, though.  I read this blog post recently, which sums up the difficulties parents of special needs kids face.  Are we just lucky that Tertia has so few issues and is so well-liked?  Is there something really important we're missing?  Is it about to get much, much worse?  What happens when you're double and triple booked and showing up late to your daughter's IEP because you're bringing her home from an orthodontist appointment that went late?  And what in the world am I supposed to say when some of my own students, when I detail some of the horrific deeds of the emperor Nero in a history lesson, respond with multiple cries of "that's so RETARDED!"  Sometimes there's just not enough bandwidth in the brain to deal with the complexities of life.
Case in point: Tertia and her childhood buddy from early intervention days, prepping for the first of two choir concerts this spring.  This is the young man we encountered outside of Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland a few years ago.  She's a bit of a mother hen, I guess it looks like here.  And that would be a correct assessment.  So her buddy, at the second of the two concerts a few weeks ago, was singing at a volume that she did not approve of, directly behind her.  First she put her hands over her ears.  Then she repeatedly tried to shush him by turning slightly and making shushing motions with her hands.  All of this while belting out "Yo le canto todo el dia" in front of a packed audience.

I laughed... and I was mortified.  Here's all this wonderful inclusion, with kids with disabilities being fully included in a concert choir, and mine is not being very inclusive herself.  It has taken me this long to write about it.  Now granted, everyone I have talked to about it thinks it was hilarious, and I should probably just roll with it and sincerely hope that Mr. Z's mother will be able to do that too.  But still, it makes life complicated.  Sometimes I really want a nice, simple life.

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