Parents of young children with Ds these days are likely to hear just how much better the opportunities, expectations, and quality of life are for their children, as opposed to even 10 or 20 years ago.
This is attributed to better medical care, Early Intervention services, and largely, in my view, to inclusion.
Being counted in as a member of society is critical. Being a student in a classroom with other typically-developing peers, participating in community events, being seen and heard... all these factors help to raise expectations for our children. And our children are rising to meet many of these expectations all the time.
But like other parents, I often find myself wondering just how much to push and just how much to expect. There is such a push to prepare for school, to make sure our children are in age-appropriate typical classroom settings.
I am starting to look at preschools. I know she won't start for another year, but it suddenly feels like it'll be here before we know it. Her Early Intervention team feels that she won't benefit much from the school district's special education preschool and that we should start looking for a typical preschool classroom for her. The daunting prospect of putting her in school is already giving me butterflies in my stomach.
And the whole thing has gotten me thinking...
I'm looking at taking her back to the library story time events, since her naps are finally shifting enough to permit this. And I wonder if I should take her to the 2-year old class or the 1 year-old class. She just turned 2. She's small. She doesn't really talk. She doesn't walk. Heck, the last time we were in the 1-year old class (about a year ago), she was one of the very few non-walkers and the 1 year olds were doing some pretty impressive things (like following instructions and participating in activities.) Thinking of what the expectations for the big 2-year olds makes me nervous. Would she be ready?
I guess the question I've been asking myself is whether I want to constantly push her beyond where she is developmentally and expect her to be with her same-age peers.
If we push her so much will there be room for her to be where she is?
I want to value where she is now. My perfect moments now are when I am on the floor with Cora, delighting in the things that she finds hilarious, watching her interact with her surroundings, seeing the sparkle in her eye as she discovers something new. Sometimes I find myself losing sight of that beauty when I am too focused on her next steps. I want to give us both time to enjoy where she is now, happy to move forward when she is ready.
If I am constantly looking to push her, does that mean that I am not accepting of where she is? Does that mean that I don't think that where she is is good enough?
Not long ago while playing with blocks she'd toss them around, maybe halfheartedly trying to stack one or two before knocking them over. And I would wonder whether I should push her harder, knowing that one day soon she will be measured by her whether she can stack blocks.
But today I watched her meticulously try to stack her blocks for almost half an hour. For the first time, she really tried. She hasn't mastered the interlocking pieces quite yet, so she just tried balancing them on top of one another. And then the little smartie tried some problem solving: she pushed them over to the couch so her tower could lean against it, allowing her to stack a little higher. I looked on with such pride. I felt such accomplishment for her, even though she hadn't quite mastered the skill. And I realized that I really just needed to wait for her to be ready.
I don't know what it is that makes her ready. Somehow turning 2 has been a bit of a turning point for her. She is eating more, nursing less, self-feeding with utensils more easily, and suddenly willing to drink from a cup. She finally seems interested in moving her body. These steps that I have been worriedly waiting for her to take are now happening before my eyes. I don't know why she is now ready for them, but she is.
So I will keep questioning myself I'm sure, hoping that I can make good choices. I'll keep watching her, keep playing with her, and keep providing her opportunities to learn. I will try to step back and let her try, even though I want to scoop her up and make everything easier. I will continue to work on being patient, waiting for her to show me what makes her shine.