Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Stares...

I played a little "hooky" yesterday. Although, it wasn't your typical "hooky", because it's a fun thing I usually do.  I skipped a playgroup yesterday because between drive time and play time it seemed like a lot of time that would just leave me more stressed about the work I have to do for an upcoming event.  So, I skipped it.  I stayed in town, but as a compromise, decided to do one fun thing for me and Elijah (well...really just me...) and then I'd get back to work and start to catch up.  So, with Elijah happily asleep in my Ergo carrier, I headed to Borders for some book browsing and a coffee.  This just so happens to be one of the top ten things I like to do when spending quality "me" time.  I walked up to the bookstore and noticed by the group of people sitting around the entrance to the store, that it was 3 minutes prior to opening.  I stood there, swaying back and forth, even though Elijah was already is that habit of all new Moms.  The best is when you're talking to someone who doesn't have a baby and they start swaying in time with you anyway...  I looked around and noticed that about 3 of the people waiting, were in wheelchairs.  Then, the young adults in wheelchairs all started congregating with their caregivers and with some man who seemed in charge of it all.  He asked everyone to get together to take a picture and once they were together, commented, "Well, this is the smallest group of people we've had, but it's a good group!!"  The caregivers agreed wholeheartedly (seemingly more to the "smallest group" part, though.)  I felt flushed.  I don't know why.  But, I have an actual physical response these days to anything Special Needs related.  I noticed the book store patrons all staring as the young adults took their places in the picture.  I tried to think that anyone would stare at a group gathering for a picture, but realized that usually in that case, the stares would also be peppered with smiles. No one was smiling. I overheard one of the caregivers say to the coordinator guy, "You should be in the picture!"  He said, "Yeah, I should.  Next time I will!"  So, I said, "Would you like me to take a picture of you all?"  He seemed surprised and touched that I asked, when it seemed like such a simple thing...although that is LA for you, much of the time...everyone so involved in their own thing...  While I asked everyone to say "Cheese" I heard someone say, "Aww...Look at the baby!"  I handed the camera back and said "You're Welcome" to his "Thank you."  But, I really wanted to shout...I understand...even if just a little...  My Baby has special needs too...  And at the same time I found myself being glad that our Special Need is Down syndrome. Is that bad? Glad that wheelchairs don't usually become necessary. Glad that they are stereotyped as happy, joyful people (even though, like everyone, some are happy, some are not...) Sad that like these young adults, my baby will be stared at. And already has been. 

I recently started taking Christian to a music class.  It is both a frustrating experience and a joyful one for me.  Christian has a new thing- that when he's around other kids he doesn't know, he goes nearly mute.  He acts almost shy and does weird things like sticking his tongue out.  Then there is the typical 3 year old boy reaction of running around the room and needing to be told 2 or more times to come sit down. Argh!  We've only been going for about 3 weeks now, but each time I have Elijah with me.  I think the teacher knows about his diagnosis because of the sensitivity with which she asks questions (That, and my best friend works for the music company, so I'm pretty sure she's shared the info.) However, this week, I was getting a lot of very curious stares from one of the other kid's Mom. When I put Elijah on his tummy to help him push up on his arms, she stared.  When I sat him up and supported his upper back so he could work on steadying his head, she stared.  When I lifted him to my shoulder and he relaxed into me, she stared.  It wasn't an Aww-how-cute-Look-at-the-baby stare.  It was a curious-somethings-not-right stare. It was a Does-she-know-something-might-be-wrong? stare.  I sort of wanted to explain, but didn't.  Hey! I know.  My baby has Down syndrome and it's gonna take him longer to do things.  So you can stop staring now, lady.  It's all good, it's just that it's really the first time I've had "the stare".  I've talked about this with some other Moms who have kids with Special Needs, and it is always just a little strange.  I have a girlfriend, who unfortunately I haven't seen much in recent years, who is a bit of a celebrity.  During her heyday, I asked her if it bothered her to be stared at all of the time?  She said, "You know, it's not much different than when people stare at you just a little more and a little longer because you're pretty."  Now, once upon a time, I did have my fair share of stares for that reason, and sometimes it sucked, but mostly it was fine.  I thought, Yeah, that's not so bad.  People stare. So what?  My little Elijah is just like that super pretty girl, or that celebrity: He gets more attention.  I personally think he should, he's special. There's a lot to look at: like how hard he tries, how big he smiles, and how much he loves us.  Those things can be seen already.

And let's face it...I stare all day long at this precious baby....

We are just a few weeks away from Christian starting preschool.  Many of our friends started their same-age kids last year, so they've been through the first-day-of-preschool jitters. Now it's my turn.  I'm alternately excited, nervous and sad.  My firstborn is growing up!  He is officially a "Big Boy".  I think he's gonna rock it that first day of preschool, but I'm not so sure how I'll do...crying in my coffee, anyone? I hope he doesn't do that stick-out-his-tongue-silly thing he does.  I hope he listens to his teachers. I hope he plays nicely with the other kids.  I hope he thrives. I hope he loves it.  I even hope he misses me...sort of.  But, I have no control over how he'll be.  So, far I've been the main source of his comfort, his schedule, his life.  It's a little scary but also a little freeing to give some of that up.  He can do a lot by himself now.  He likes to tell me that too. (I do by myself, Mommy.) He uses the toilet instead of a diaper. He sleeps in a bed instead of a crib. No more binky. He does still like his blankie and this little stuffed animal named Leo, who he is absolutely captivated by- God only knows why!  So, I reminisced a lot this week.  I had to get a new cell phone, and the only fear I had of getting rid of my old phone was that it contained all of the videos I have of Christian's "firsts".  His first head up, his first crawl, his first walk, his first dance, him kissing our golden retriever Buddy...(Oh! My heart...Miss you, Bud.)  Since I had been having trouble saving the videos from my phone (all other info synced just fine, but never the videos) I was worried I'd lose them all.  The cell phone rep recommended a mini disc designed specifically for saving pictures and videos.  They saved the info onto the disc, trashed my old phone, gave me the new one, and I held my breath...I had a brief moment of technical uncertainty yesterday and thought I'd lost them all.  Amidst my sobs, I tried again and found everything neatly saved, just as I'd hoped!!  When I watched all of the videos again, I was struck by the fact that Elijah looks a little bit like Christian did as a baby!  Friends have said that, but I didn't really see it.  Here is the first video clip I ever took of Christian as a baby:


The cool thing, is that the age Christian is here is EXACTLY the age that Elijah is now.  There are definite differences.  Christian is much stronger and in control of his head and babbles more as I speak, but it is a joy to see that some of it is very much the how they smile when prompted by my "special Mommy voice" (insert embarrassment here).  I think I'm going to work on a little "Elijah's firsts" video too, so stay tuned...

Elijah definitely has his own talents.  And flexibility is one of them!  Wow.  I jokingly was referring to him as my little "Rockette"- he can stretch that leg all the way to his face.  I know babies are usually flexible, but this guy has em beat!  Case in point:

Got my leg Mommy!

One legged Happy Baby Pose!

Hi sweetness...


P said...

For me the extreme is the angle of that little FOOT and ankle!!

Lots to say but I'm speechless. Christian is going to create lots of memories. And maybe you'll stay most of the day (if you can! Watching whether you're needed or not). An interesting good story all around.

I'll go with him wearing the red tutu or hawaiian skirt all day like two different boys in two different classes at our preschool. And everyone LOVING it like we did trying not to smile or laugh too much to alter little egos.

Yeah I'm a total co op over-attached parent. Fun fun fun!!

P said...

But dear Dr Laura says preschool is daycare and I know I can't nor want to homeschool--yes, there is a huge range of options out there and most is readily accessible in LA. Wow

P said...

People also tend to remember your names always now too.

TwolittleN's said...

I totally related to your two boys are both a bit older than yours so I have been there. My four year old still sticks out his tongue on occasion (learned it can be devilish thing to do) and is very shy when it comes to group settings. Oh, and from a mom who has been through that first year of preschool... trust me, preschool is SO good for them! And, there have been many occasions where I just wanted to explain (aka shout out) "yes, he has down syndrome" about my youngest. Looks like your doing a wonderful job. Elijah is adorable!

Ashley said...

Your sons are precious :) My little sister also has DS and people are starting to notice her feaures. She is almost 11 months old now, but when she was really little, people would ALWAYS comment about how cute she is. Now they don't so much, but hey I think she's as cute now as she's ever been and she is loved oh so much and that is all that matters :)

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