I’m years away from being an “empty nester,” and although I suspect that Penny will one day live independently, there’s always the possibility that our daughter with Down syndrome (or, for that matter, our typically-developing son or daughter) might end up under our roof for many years of their adulthood. Still, with William in pre-school and Penny in kindergarten, I have a guess as to what it might feel like.
There’s the scary part. I’m entrusting my children to other people–teachers, administrators, therapists, other kids, other parents–for many hours of every day. This sending forth feels particularly scary for Penny. Although she is loving kindergarten, she’s also struggling every day to have “quiet hands.” Most days she touches things she shouldn’t touch and hides things she shouldn’t hide. Last week, she also hit and pushed her friends. Repeatedly. The chance that they won’t be her friends for long looms large, and I can’t do much about it from a distance. We talked about it a lot, and she tells me that she went back the next day and apologized to each of them in turn, and there were no more reports of pushing or hitting as the week went on. But still, all I can do from a distance is hope that we’ve offered her and her teachers a good foundation to learn how to be in kindergarten, and pray.
With William, I don’t worry so much. He loves school and he is already Mr. Obedient. At home it’s a different story. A few weeks back, he hit Penny. Peter, trying a new tactic, said, “William, what would happen if you hit one of your friends at school?” William looked puzzled. “Dad, I would never hit one of my friends at school!” Right. So I don’t worry so much about him making friends or obeying his teachers, but I’m still entrusting him to other adults for hours every day, and I’m still inviting other people to participate in shaping his world.
But two cool things happened this week, things that never would or could have happened in the context of our own home. First, there was the note home from William’s teacher. She wrote:
The kids love to pretend to have restaurants . . . So one day, I ordered a jelly donut from them. Then I bit into my pretend jelly donut and described how the filling tasted. What I described was not jelly at all. “Ewww! This is not jelly! It tastes spicy, it’s yellow, and it goes on a hotdog!” William screamed, “IT’S MUSTARD!” and laughed so hard he literally fell off the bench.”
Thank the Lord for teachers who make my kid laugh so hard he falls off his bench.
Then, the day after Penny’s hitting and pushing incidents, I got a long note home and an email about her day. It still included some infractions, but overall she did a great job. Lots of stickers and positive reinforcement. It concluded with the reward that meant most to her–she got to “be the teacher” and “read” a book to another class. She talked about it all afternoon. So again, thank the Lord for teachers who interrupt their regular schedules to allow our daughter to read a book about a tiger coming to tea.
And thank the Lord for the times when vulnerability leads to trust and trust leads to joy.