A few weekends back Rachel said, “Mommy I want to go back to 7th grade. I miss my teachers.” She then told me that 8th grade was hard. I told her that I knew it was hard but a lot of things in life are hard and we have to just keep on working. Sometimes she cries at school. Sometimes I know about it, but most of the time I don’t. Ordinarily, according to Rachel everything is awesome. Hence some of my cross examinations that usually only result in frustration. This year she has told me about “tears” a couple of times which is amazing progress. Sometimes she cries because people are laughing. Who knows why they are laughing. They aren’t laughing at her but she is 14, and when you are 14 the world revolves around you. We have to reason through this over and over again.
Last week she told me that she was crying at school because she was “whelmed.” I said “overwhelmed?” She said yes and has improved upon her description. She has told me several times that she is overwhelmed. She has good classes. She has good electives. Even with modifications and accommodations a lot of the core curriculum is hard. Heck – it’s hard for me! We are having some challenges with some material that I believe is unnecessary but it is all part of the journey. It is all part of navigating this journey called life. Rachel will not be immune to any of that because she has Down syndrome. Like others she has to learn to deal with difficult people and people who don’t get it and think they do. I had a meeting with her Language Arts teacher. I think she rocks. She gets it. She was talking to me about how Rachel doesn’t want to be different…Seems like I have heard that before? I should have told her that I feel like I’m in the movie “Ground Hog Day.” We were discussing that and how to deal with it and the academics that are appropriate for Rachel. The teacher has some clever ideas for helping her to learn and for maximizing Rachel’s strengths. As we were chatting about the difficulty of the work, I told her that I knew she would probably think I was harsh. I do understand that sometimes the work is hard for Rachel. However, there are plenty of people in Rachel’s life who have and will feel sorry for her. I cannot be one of those people.
Overall everything in Rachel’s world is pretty good. Sometimes people seem to think that I have the rock star child and there are no bumps in the road. Reality check: There are always bumps. Rachel is a human being with human parents, teachers, friends and support personnel. We are all fallible and we all have our struggles. Having Down syndrome or an intellectual disability doesn’t make you immune to life’s struggles, but having Down syndrome does create different challenges. All of us have a wide range of abilities, talents and struggles. We (my husband and I) are just working to maximize Rachel’s strengths just like we would if she didn’t have Down syndrome. All of us have bumps in the road. Rachel is a rock star because she is mine and she is God’s. That’s it. For no other reason. We are all, including Rachel, a work in progress – even when it’s hard.