8th Grade is Hard

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.

Image by Chuck France (Getty Images/NBC News)

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.

Image by Chuck France (Getty Images/NBC News)

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.

Image by Chuck France (Getty Images/NBC News)


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  1. Thank you for your honesty. It really gives me insight to how Megan may feel too. I really, really appreciate your blogs. You write in such a way that is so humble, human and straightforward. Looking forward to hearing more of Rachel’s journey.

  2. Thanks for your honesty. We’ve had tears in third grade too because the work is hard and she doesn’t know the language. They refuse to send work home ahead so we can familiarize her with terms they will be using. If anyone has fought that battle and won, please advise.

  3. I too have a child who has some special needs. They are different than Rachel’s but they are still special needs. I work hard to try to help him or find help for him that will get him through school. Sometimes the help is easier than at other times. Hang in there. You & Jonathan are doing a wonderful job & are raising a beautiful daughter who is maximizing her strengths to the best of her ability. I tell my son I want him to do his best everyday, but that I understand his best today is not necessarily the same as his best tomorrow.

  4. Thanks for reading everyone. Want to be encouraging but realistic. This is a marathon and life comes with bumps for all of us! Stephanie, I hope you get some answers. I’m not sure where you live but it doesn’t sound like your child’s getting what is appropriate for her. Ginger – Rachel’s best may be different on a daily basis. It may not look like other kids, but it is her best. Truthfully, my best is not always the same either!

  5. Thank you for putting so much effort into everything. I recently read an article about sound/frequency helping with DS. Would you still recommend this? I just read a book written by Sol Luckman, and am intrigued.

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