My memories of 7th grade provoke a visceral response. Awkward and insecure, I sought acceptance through conformity, applying baby blue crème eye shadow thickly from a lipstick tube, battling my naturally curly hair into something resembling Farrah Fawcett’s, and walking the halls with fake nonchalance, clutching my Partridge Family Trapper Keeper to my chest. None of it worked. I was unpopular and self-conscious. I think it was actually the worst year of my life. So recently, when the necessity arose to attend 7th grade science camp with Sydney, my thought was, “I wonder if there’s somewhere I can get alcohol within walking distance.”
I went, not as a chaperone, but as 1:1 support for my special needs daughter; the school could not provide a 24-hour para for an extracurricular activity. If I didn’t go, she couldn’t go. Short of swapping bodies with my 13-year-old daughter, ala Freaky Friday, I lived the life of an early adolescent for three days.
“Are you excited, Syd?!” I asked, as if she hadn’t been telling everyone who’d listen. Excited was probably not the word I’d use to describe my state of mind, but I steeled myself and climbed aboard the big yellow school bus packed with chattering, giggling girls, their cumulative noise already bouncing off the tin walls of the chassis. Sydney and I squeezed past arms and legs spilling into the aisle until we reached an empty seat. “Whoa,It’s hot in here,” I thought, as I clicked my window down, notch by notch. I wrestled my bag into the seat on the wheel well and anticipated the 90 minute ride ahead. Talking to myself, I said, “You can do this–it’ll be good for the kids,” and with one look at Sydney, I knew there wasn’t a choice. “Mom, take a picture of us and post it on Facebook,” she said, posing with her friends.
To watch us dance is to hear our heart speak ~ Hopi Tribal Saying
My daughter Sydney is turning 13. Thirteen. As in teen-ager. When she was born with Down syndrome, we couldn’t have known that watching this beautiful creature grow from infancy to adolescence would be astonishing, but considering that ten years ago we nearly lost her to pneumonia, it becomes positively miraculous. She would have remained forever a cherubic 2½ year old, arrested in toddlerhood, innocent and unchanged. It causes my chest to constrict painfully when I remember the weeks she spent in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, when I realize how close she came to dying. But, to our great relief, she didn’t. She stayed with us. And she’s no longer a baby. Through preschool and potty-training, through primary school and pre-pubescence, my long-legged, lanky daughter, emerged, poised on the cusp of puberty. Ready or not, world, here she comes.Read More