Today I read a story that brought tears to my eyes.
If you're interested you can find it here: nice story
While I feel heartened by this story, I also feel a bit uneasy. Part of me is overjoyed to read about the children's kindness by giving this boy such joy and I hope that my daughter may some day have this kind of acceptance if she needs it. But then I think about another side of it: that she may not need that kind of special treatment. There are those who feel that their children with Ds are limited only by others' expectations. Those who would feel offended by this kind of treatment. They tell stories of their children being the smartest kids in their class, express frustration that society expects their children to have delays, and are bound and determined to do everything in their power to help them realize their full potential.
I feel that I am determined to help Cora realize her full potential. But I also am wary. I worry that if I refuse to allow her to experience any delays, then I will be disappointed and let down if she does not do things "on schedule." And I don't want my expectations to compromise my acceptance of her.
We work with her to give her opportunities to succeed: We give her supplements. My husband builds her tools: a crawling track, a bench, a desk, a weighted bin to pull up on. We both put her through "therapy-play" on a daily basis. She breastfeeds and eats almost exclusively home-made, high-quality whole foods. We work with her on a baby reading program, sign, read and sing to her. We expose her to our community and to age-appropriate activities for typically-developing children, as well as events for people with Ds. We take her to the naturopath, the chiropractor, another who does craniosacral, along with a myriad of other "required" medical specialists. We expect her to wow us with her life, and we are encouraged and impressed regularly by her accomplishments.
Yet she's still developmentally delayed in gross motor, fine motor and speech. She shows comprehension in many ways. She understands phrases we use commonly, she is able to do the motions to her favorite songs (though she chooses not to most of the time), she is able to feed herself (though she chooses not to most of the time), she is able to mimic some of our sounds (though she chooses not to most of the time), and she responds appropriately in many situations. But there are many things that typically-developing children her age are doing that she does not do and just doesn't seem ready to do. Whether she can yet or not I don't know. Most of the time it isn't clear if she understands what I say. She doesn't say words yet (although she consistently says "hi da" to both me and her dad, which he is convinced is a greeting she gives to us both). Is it wrong that I am skeptical? I so want to believe that she is capable of greeting us verbally with intent. I feel horrible that I doubt it. But what if it's just a sound she likes to make? How do I know? How do I expect the most of her and at the same time avoid disappointment?
I say these things aware that she has delays, and accepting them as part of where she is now. I expect her to catch up. I expect her to be reading before she enters school. I plan for her to be included in a regular classroom with peers her own age. But I am also learning that I am okay with it if that is not to be. I can expect that of her and want that for her. But I also am learning to be okay with accepting her for where she is at the given moment. I have to be okay with the fact that things may be more difficult and may come slower for her. I can expect her to graduate high school with her class and go to college at the same time that I can accept it if her own goals are different, or if her full potential doesn't look exactly the way I always hoped it would.
Because really, her value doesn't exist in what she is able to do. It exists in her. Just her. I see it in her smile and I feel it in her squealing giggle, barely able to be contained in her voice and in her face as I bounce her across the room. I see how other people respond to her contagious babbles and coos. I see them lean in and feel her pure joy for those moments, the way I am blessed to feel on a daily basis.
I expect her to have a grand life. The value of that life will not be simply the compilation of her accomplishments.
I can expect her to achieve. I can expect her to soar. I can set no limitations and support her to reach her highest potential. And I can accept it if that potential looks completely different from the definitions I had set in my pre-Cora life. That may sound like a contradiction. But I am learning that it is not. I know that in our society we tend to pit the things we view as opposite against one another, convinced that they cannot co-exist; that it isn't possible. Perhaps I'm re-learning to appreciate a more Tao-ist view and learning to find contentment somewhere within my seeming contradictions. I could think that maybe I'm becoming more relaxed; even though I don't think I'm really "there" yet. (Those who know the anxious, organized, plan-ahead me are probably smiling right now.) I guess I'm still learning where my own place in this in-between world really is. I guess I'm finding it all the time.