She read my mind. Again. She is smart in a way that no one can test. But more importantly she is funny, determined, and passionate. And she has the uncanny ability of being able to read my mind. She pays attention to my face more than anyone I know.
I was fretting a bit about what to write for the 31 for 21 blog. I really wanted to contribute, as I enjoyed writing when my kids were little. When I was my Moms Club president years ago, I had to write about parenting and raising kids. I tried writing a few blogs about Colleen in the years after she was born. Should I find an old blog and update it? When would I have time to write anyway as my life is over full right now?
Saturday morning I was contemplating this blog and how I have failed Colleen. We were the only ones up, I was brewing coffee, and she was eating (and tossing) cheerios. She isn’t included in a typical classroom. She doesn’t go to her home school, where her two older siblings attended. I tried, but perhaps not hard enough. I “chased” the teacher, and, boy, was she a great one. But, she doesn’t have friends in our neighborhood or who she gets together with for playdates. No birthday party invitations. She is the youngest of three, and I have been working full time as a teacher again since she started first grade. Gosh, how I want her to have friends. Just like any parent wants their child to have friends.
Then I heard it. It was the swim team cheer. She had my phone and she had started watching videos of herself, one of her favorite activities. She watched herself in the pack of a very loud cheer, “We are Rollingwood, couldn’t be prouder, if you can hear me, shout a little louder.” This was one of the cheers at the start of every home swim meet.
Then she watched her dance recital, where I had secretly held my camera and videotaped it because I knew it would be a favorite. All three dances. Jazz. Tap. Ballet. She knew every dance. And, oh, the pride!! She lives to be in her “shows.” Onto the play she was in this summer, where she learned the words and movements, even if no one could tell she was singing. She loves shows, and she was so happy to finally be in one herself. Then she moved onto a recent soccer video, even though I did miss the time she kicked the ball.
Then she pulled up her last swim team race. It is a personal favorite as I was trying to be quieter (knowing she would watch it again and again and I would hear my voice again and again), and throughout the whole race you can hear a young girl shouting, “Go, Colleen, goooooo!!” over and over again. It was probably her slowest time of the year, but Colleen didn’t care. She was swimming, feeling free and confident in the water, and she was part of the team. And she can swim, which gives her independence at our pool and is such an important skill.
I still don’t know who that girl is that I can hear in the video, but I do hope that she has been touched by my daughter in a positive way. I think she has, based on her loud and passionate cheer. I hope everyone who has been in a class with Colleen (she has two classes at school), on a team with Colleen, been in a dance class, or the play, has been touched in a positive way. And if not the kids, then hopefully the parents. I am so grateful for the kind parents who seem to know when I need an encouraging word or a hug.
It was Colleen’s way of telling me it was okay. She’s happy going to school. She has friends in her class. The kids in her school know her, even if she doesn’t know all of them. The administration and teachers care about her and her family. She is busy with activities, and when the initial starts were rough we didn’t give up. Her friend Luis takes her to plays. Her teenage friends that take her out to play adore her. They are now reaching out to others with disabilities. With modifications and accommodations, she has been successful. She may end up being in more programs designed for people with learning differences as she gets older (she was in an adaptive baseball this past spring and I’m signing her up for the Saints Hockey program next month) and that will be okay. Better then okay. It will be great.
Last year Colleen’s dad suffered a stroke. Sisters, friends, and family had to jump in to care for her and her siblings so I could care for Ray. As my sister kindly said, “Caring for Colleen is more art than science.” It was heartbreaking holding her as she cried herself to sleep for two straight weeks when she realized Daddy was really “sick.” (But aren’t people with DS always, happy?? Seriously people. Get a clue.) Ray lived for her hugs, and she continues to inspire him to keep working at his recovery. She seems to know what he needs.
After all, she can read minds. She is a gift, and one so glad I have been given.
About the Author: Lori is a married mother of three who lives in Catonsville. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, and now teaches elementary school in Arbutus, where her classroom motto is “Work hard and be nice to people.” Her passions include advocacy work, running, skiing, singing aloud off key when driving, watching her kids play sports, sporting events, and enjoying time with her family and friends.