Category Archives: special needs

You Can’t Make Me, But I Might Be Persuaded

I made a critical parenting error several years ago. I let the hairdresser talk me into restraining B on my lap while she tried to cut her hair. Hmmm… a sharp pair of scissors + screaming, thrashing child = all kinds of stupid. Leaving with one side quite a bit shorter than the other was the best case scenario.

In retrospect, I’m sure the big chair, strange women in smocks and tray of tools on the shelf reminded her of the lab. A frequent flier in the blood test game, she was already pre-disposed to hate doctors, dentists and white leather recliners. Unfortunately, this experience added “Hair Cuts” to the list of things to despise. Her reaction from that day forward involved kicking, screaming and wedging her body in the doorway of every hair salon we tried to take her to.

The next few years, we trimmed as best we could at home. A full hair cut could take weeks to finish – a snip here and a snip there, trying to even it out as quickly as possible, before the crying and head thrashing began. Sitting up with a snack, in the bath… I even found myself sneaking into her bedroom at night with a pair of scissors (yes, after typing that out, I realize how creepy it sounds).

Finally, my hairdresser (and friend) Rhianna came to our rescue. We slowly introduced her to the idea. At first she simply came and watched me get my hair done. Then, watching her sisters and sitting in the chair. Once she sat up and had a clip put in her hair. Each visit ended on a positive note; that was the key. At the first sign of trouble, Rhianna backed off. It was a good experience.

We didn’t push her and one magical day, she sat up and had her bangs trimmed quite happily. And then the next time, the whole enchilada! All that attention from the ladies in the salon and, later, from everyone who appreciates her funky pixie “do” have done wonders. In the space of a year, she became not only cooperative, but THRILLED to get her hair cut.

Until today.

She was singing in the car, SO excited to see Miss Rhianna and telling me how “pitty” her haircut would be. But we hit a speed bump along the way. For some reason, though she has done it several times before, she decided she was NOT going to get her hair washed.

I told her that she had to get her hair washed (or even wet down) so that it could be cut. I made it very clear. She was unwilling to budge. I had chosen my battle.

I’m not opposed to the occasional change of mind as a parent, but I was sure we could get this done. I dug deep into my rather large arsenal of parental manipulation. Every lady in the place (including the one with foils in her hair) offered a suggestion, or 10. We tried it all.

I let her choose – which chair do you want to sit in? which shampoo? who do you want to do the washing? I gave her control – climb up yourself, tell me when you are ready, you hold the shampoo. I set the example – close watching while both sisters had their hair washed, then I stuck my own hair in the sink and even got it wet (I straightened my hair today, so this is one of the greatest examples of maternal love in the modern world). I talked it through – reason, logic, persuasion, outright begging. I offered bribes – chocolate granola bars, a new clip for her hair; I literally held a lollipop over her head to get her to put it back. Rhianna made it a game – lots of counting, tickling, fun things to look at. I played it cool – “it’s up to you, wash and cut or we can just go home,” then tried to look bored and unconcerned. I tried to make it happen – picked her up, put her in the chair and held her head back (for about 2 seconds when she started freaking). I let it go – “okay, let’s go home;” then she would call me back and get close, so very close to actual H2O, and it would all start again.

“I dunno. I dunno. I DON’T KNOW!” – her answer to every other question.

The other answer, her favourite word – “nnnnnnnoooooooo! NOOOOOOOOO! nnnnnnooooo!”

She didn’t want to get her hair wet, but she wanted to get her hair cut so badly.

If we hadn’t come so very close, so many times, I would have given up much sooner. As it was, she left with a wet shirt, 3 clumps of damp hair and a grumpy, grumpy mom. Only B can take 2 hours to NOT get a haircut.

All this on the same day as our IEP meeting with her teachers, where we discussed her recent bathroom strike. After months of staying dry, she now refuses to even try on a regular basis. At home, the bathroom is going well, but tooth brushing has become an epic battle of wills (and ultimately a headlock and quick swish, swish… since dental hygeine is not remotely optional). This is our life.

I try to remember that determination (a much nicer way to say stubborn) can be a strength for a child with special needs. I have no doubt she will need every little bit of it to succeed in this world. And I’m not going to lie, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We’re pretty sure B’s personal motto is: You Can’t Make Me, But I Might Be Persuaded (also the title of a book by Cynthia Tobias).

If parenting B has taught me anything, it is this: There are certain things you CANNOT force a child to do, no matter how much you want to. There are tricks and techniques, but ultimately you cannot MAKE them eat, pee, blow their nose, sincerely apologize or, apparently, cooperate with the hairdresser.

So here’s me, and this is my inconvenient truth.

Can you think of anything else you cannot force anyone to do? Have you ever tried?

Also, thank you Rhianna, Kristen, Sasha and lady getting the foils in the next chair, for all your help this afternoon!


The “R” Word… Part 2: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I noticed her right away when we walked into the doctor’s office. She was a lady in white: white shoes, white tights, white skirt, white blouse, white hair and perched on top, a white nurse’s hat – the old fashioned kind I’d only ever seen in skimpy Halloween costumes. She was a piece of history come alive in our G.P.’s waiting room.

She rushed over when she noticed us, and peered into the car seat where baby B was studying her own fingers.

“What a sweet little mongoloid!”

When I finally managed to unhinge my jaw, I’m pretty sure I muttered something about Down Syndrome being the appropriate term. Did I hear her right? About 100 years ago the label “mongoloid idiot” was discarded along with leeches and flat earth theories. Could someone in this day and age actually be using the term?

But she did. Just as people in this day and age still use the term “retardation”. Including my parents and many of my relatives.

Are they ignorant? Clueless? Or even worse…gasp!.. not reading my blog? (The “R” Word Part 1)

Not at all! In fact, there were few things more forbidden growing up than using the word retard as a put down. “There really are retarded people” my Mom would say. And she would never allow us to disrespect them by misusing the term.

  • It is not the USE of the word retardation that is offensive, but the MISUSE.

It is actually a clinical term, meaning held back or delayed, hence the diagnosis mental retardation. My Aunt proudly displays a plaque on her wall celebrating her years of service to the Glendale Association for the Retarded. She is proud to have sat on the board of directors and feels no shame in referring to herself as retarded. Nor should she.

  • Language evolves over time.

Words are not static in their meaning, but change alongside culture. When my husband was growing up, the ‘D’ word in his house wasn’t the same as in mine. It was ‘dork’. To this day, he dares not call his brother the ‘D’ word in his Mom’s presence (naturally he waits ’till she turns around). She hears something the rest of us don’t. Perhaps it is her training as a marine biologist, but to her ears ‘dork’ clearly says “whale penis.”

Once upon a time, “idiot” and “moron” were appropriate medical terms; now they are names for tail-gaters and obtuse civil servants. They’ve become insults and nothing more.

Clearly, the term retardation is heading in the same direction. It no longer means what it used to, at least outside of a clinical setting. It is too wrapped up in social stigma.

  • So, we’ve created new terms.

Intellectual disability, developmental delay, mental handicap, differently-abled, cognitively-challenged, low incidence… Some are good, some are kind of silly, but the whole thing is REALLY confusing. I used to think it was political correctness gone mad. Until it was my kid they were talking about.

Now it seems important to find the right words to express, not who she is, but the struggles she faces. As a community of parents, professionals and self advocates, we need to get together and find a common language. It doesn’t matter so much which one we choose, we just need to get on with it.

  • Words are important, but ACTIONS and ATTITUDE are even more important!

Of course I think words are important. I’m a writer, it’s kind of my job. Plus, I totally kick ass at Scrabble.

But when we get bogged down by the nit-picky specifics of word usage, sometimes we miss the point. I’d like for people to use respectful language, but it’s most important that they actually respect my daughter. When push comes to shove, intent trumps nouns, verbs, and adverbs… every time.

That olden times nurse who offended me on our first meeting proceeded to shower B with attention. Each time we came for the next few years, she would drop everything to come and visit with her. She was amazed by her every accomplishment and was always telling B what a “smart, smart girl she is”.

I don’t see her anymore and I miss her. She loved B. She treated her with respect. She may not have said all the right things, but she took the time to get to know my daughter. And that’s what matters most.

So here’s me, differently-abled in many ways myself. I can curl my tongue and fold it over, but I can’t for the life of me wink.

What do you think? Which terms are you most comfortable using? Why?


The “R” word

For Christmas Grandma gave B a boatload of Calico Critters for her dollhouse. They are so cute, with 14,000 tiny pieces: chairs, tables, a wood fireplace, plates, cups, even a little bar of soap. Apparently she should have included a jackhammer, because getting them out of the box was almost impossible.

“This packaging is so retarded!”

And I feel my stomach sink into my shoes. I can’t believe I just said that.

Rumor has it, I’m not perfect. But still, I should know better.

It is a habit, a pop culture reflex that most of us has picked up over the years. But of all people, I should know better.

There is a big push these days to ban the “r” word. Youtube videos, T.V. commercials and celebrity endorsements have made this a trendy topic to support. For me it’s personal.

In some circles it has become the true measure of evil. And although I’m certain that the torture and slaughter of small, woodland creatures factors in there somewhere, I get it. I really do.

“Don’t be a retard!”

“I am SO a retarded!”

“The instructions for my new Ikea shelf are retarded.”

I am not easily offended, but I cringe every time I hear it. It feels like a casual slap on the face. Even worse, on my daughter’s face.

To my husband, it is exactly the same as using her name as an insult. He is even harder to offend than I, but be warned: If you say this in his presence, you will get it!

“It” being a stoney silence and angry, angry thoughts. He is not a confrontational man.

My daughter works 10 times harder than the rest of us to communicate, to learn and to find new places to hide things (her nickname is the Destroyer). But she still has time to entertain, charm and amaze us every day. Not only is she fun and affectionate, but she has an iron will and refuses to be left behind. She deserves respect and admiration, not to be the punch line of a joke or a derogatory descriptor.

When I’ve finally worked up the courage to speak up about it, it is with great understanding. Okay, fine, it is with a passive aggressive move, like, say, writing a blog about it. I can certainly understand that it may slip out from time to time. As much as I may want to take offenders out back and “educate” them, instead I will simply say that it hurts me and my family, every time.

My daughter, and amazing men and women like her, are an inspiration, not an insult. So this is one habit I intend to crush with extreme prejudice. If I have to wash my own mouth out with soap… so be it.

So here’s me, wondering if my use of the word “doofus” is disrespectful to losers everywhere?

The “R” Word Part 2 is now up. I originally titled it: In Defense of the “R” Word, but my husband hated that. Confused? It all makes sense, I swear.


It’s a Worrisome Life! Pharmaceutical Error and My Little Girl

In one of my favourite movies of all time, there is a subplot about a drunk and distraught druggist who makes a dangerous error (say that 10 times really fast). Fortunately, the young shop boy steps in and saves everyone from what would have been a fatal mistake. This morning we discovered that our baby girl is the victim of a pharmaceutical error herself, not fatal, but potentially serious.

A rather common side effect of Down Syndrome is hypothyroidism – low thyroid. We’ve spent the past several years working with her pediatrician to keep her level JUST RIGHT. Too high and she gets hyper, jittery and is unable to grow. Too low and she is lethargic, listless and also, unable to grow. Left untreated, low thyroid can cause brain damage.

A few months ago we realized that B needed another dosage adjustment. When I went to pick up the prescription I was surprised that it read “take 1/2 a pill daily”. I had hoped that a higher dose would mean an end to fiddling with that stupid pill cutter. I asked about it – gutsy for someone like me, who prefers not to make waves. “Isn’t she supposed to take the whole pill?” But I was assured that this was the correct dosage.

Apparently, I’m no George Bailey. I didn’t question it. I mean, I trust these people. They wear white coats for Pete’s sake; if that doesn’t spell “trustworthy,” I don’t know what does.

These past few months have been difficult in our house and at school. B has not been herself. She’s been irritable, needy and unfocused. I wondered if it was the adjustment to a new school year. We’ve had numerous discussions with the resource and classroom teachers, daily strategy sessions with the S.E.A.’s (teaching assistants), and notes flying back and forth about what to do. I wondered if she was coming down with something. We’ve taken many sick days, even antibiotics at the height of her distress (though her ear was only slightly red). I wondered if we are just crappy, crappy parents. There’s a distressed e-mail to a behavioural interventionist in the draft box of my computer.

Two days ago our family doctor phoned with the results of our much dreaded blood test. Apparently, her thyroid levels are way too low. I was confused; we had just upped the meds, so if anything it should be slightly high… Then I remembered my unease at the drugstore counter.

Sure enough, we’ve been giving her half the required dosage. And our pediatrician was pissed. It is behind the lack of energy and focus, the irritability, the general malaise.

At that moment I went through what psychologists may call “rapid cycling” – many strong emotions in quick order:

Guilt: I should have caught this. I did catch this. Why didn’t I catch this? Self recrimination is my super power.

Relief: It could have been the leukemia my darkest fears were whispering about. And it could have been much, much worse. If we didn’t catch it in time, it may have done permanent damage.

Fear: What if it did do permanent damage? Will this set her back? Will she ever recover? She was learning to read, doing so well and now she can barely stand to look at a book with me.

Anger: I have a powerful urge to find that careless pharmacist and squish him like the worthless insect he is.

More guilt: Because that’s just how I roll.

Gratitude: This explains so much and it’s an easy fix – just a pill a day for a happier child! How often can you say that?

I should have trusted my instincts. I have said it before, our instincts as parents are not infallible, but they are a God-given gift. It doesn’t matter what expertise and professional training the wildly intelligent people we deal with have, when push comes to shove, I am the expert on my child. If something feels wrong, it probably is. One of the best things I ever did was find a doctor who respects that.

All behaviour is communication. Whether it is saying “I’m tired,” “I’m hungry,” “I’m overwhelmed,” or “I have a deficit in an important growth hormone”, kids who act out are trying to tell us something. When I can’t figure out what the naughty behaviour means, I tend to chalk it up to random, unspecified grumpiness. That’s not without merit; Lord knows, I experience enough of it in my own life. But it is important to check for a physical reason and even visit my doctor when the behaviour seems uncharacteristic and out of control.

So that’s the moral of the story for me. It’s been a hard lesson. From now on I will listen to my gut and to listen to my child.

So here’s me, rehearsing my lines for the showdown at the pharmacy. No, I won’t be crushing anyone like a bug, but there will be a strongly worded complaint form filled out… um… if it’s not too much trouble. Stupid Canadian politeness! Stupid intimidating white coats!


The History of a Tantrum: For the Well Meaning Bystander

Have you ever seen an adult dragging a small child kicking and screaming down the street, stuffing them in a vehicle and peeling off down the road? Just so you know, it might be me. I sometimes wonder if you passers-by have a moment of concern about this situation. I wouldn’t be offended if you took a second look, I’m all about protecting children.

No doubt you would soon notice that A) the shrieking midget in question bears a striking resemblance to her “kidnapper” and B) the perpetrator is exhausted, overwhelmed and most likely close to tears herself. No one WANTS to be that parent, the one getting all the pitying and/or disapproving looks on the way to the grocery checkout. If you think it’s a pain to be stuck on an airplane with a crying baby, try being the Mom who feels the weight of everyone’s displeasure.

I remember the good, old days. The “I have one well-behaved child” days when everything was neat and orderly, and I had all the answers. I knew in theory that there might be more to a situation than I could see, yet my inner dialogue usually went something like this “Tut Tut… listen to that bratty child carry on. Some consistent discipline and clear expectations is just what she needs. I would never let MY child behave like that.”

It’s not that my opinions and experience as a parent and daycare teacher were wrong. Reality is just so much more complicated (and exhausting) than all the theory in the world. I look back at that smug, certain parent I used to be and I cringe. I was so quick to offer answers and advice, so sure that I understood the challenges of parenting… so completely untested.

So, next time you witness a monumental melt-down give me a break. If you have to look, look closer. My daughter may be 7, but she is developmentally delayed and so are her emotions. There may be a long and complex back-story to this split second in history. There may be extenuating circumstances. Or there may be no good reason whatsoever, just a bad day all around.

This afternoon as my howling child trotted down the sidewalk of a busy street, all by herself, in the rain, without a jacket – it was all of the above. She had just had a blood test. It happens every few months and lately, each one is worse than the last. While two lab techs hold her flailing arms down, I try to keep her still, pin her legs down with my own and sing”Jesus Loves Me” in her ear. I haven’t yet found a way to make her understand how necessary this is. No amount of candy bribes, stage appropriate explanations and fun games in the waiting room seem to make a difference. She gives me a look of such utter betrayal each time. Then it gets even worse when they slap on the band-aid, something she hates almost as much as the needle itself. The minute she was off my lap today, she was out the door and down the street with me in hot pursuit.

In the end, it was only a moment in time, a bad moment, but over quickly. She’s happy now, showing off her war wound and telling her daddy all about her “dee-do” (which we think means needle). She is painting a picture with bingo daubers while her sisters are doing a science experiment (aka – messing up my kitchen). And suddenly I’m feeling like a good mom again, but I’m pretty sure I was this afternoon too, even though it didn’t look like it.

So here’s me, with a lot fewer answers, and hopefully, a lot more compassion for the next tantruming child I meet.


The Destroyer

“Some have come to build, I have come to destroy.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It has been a difficult week in our house. Our cute-as-a-button, darling girl has left a path of destruction in her wake. A month of illness, an ear infection and adjusting to full days at school have left her understandably needy and slightly grumpy. This never bodes well for our possessions.

Her usual M.O. is to hide things. To be fair, this is not trouble-making behavior. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’s trying to help. She sees me bustling around, putting things away, so she does the same. She may have inherited a touch of OCD from her parents. One of her favourite forms of play is to carefully arrange rows of toys, books, socks… (whatever strikes her fancy) into different patterns.

Unfortunately, her organizational plan and mine don’t always mesh. Which is why I often come across unusual things such as: potatoes in the Tupperware drawer, socks in the pantry, and cash in the recycling bin.

Although her intentions may be pure and honorable (or more likely, impulsive and benign) this hiding habit does cause problems. On two separate occasions we have had to send guests home in borrowed shoes as B has industriously stashed theirs in some obscure hiding spot. When we express alarm and concern she will eagerly join in the search, but rarely does she recollect where she put that special item.

NOTE: We later found one of the shoes in the downstairs shower and the other set had been stashed behind the books on the bottom shelf of Dad’s home office. STILL Missing: 1 DS game system, several DVDs, a favourite stuffie, a toothbrush, and various odds and ends too numerous to mention.

Recently, she managed to reach her box of CDs, remove each one from its case and hide them in an undisclosed location. The only survivor happened to be in the player at the time. The others remain M.I.A.

I’ve duct taped the slats of her bed and moved furniture around to eliminate some of her favourite hidey holes. We have worked hard to give B an idea of where things are SUPPOSED to go. She loves helping unload the dishwasher and putting dishes where they “live”. I’m optimistic that once this is firmly established she will become our most diligent tidy-upper. Someday I plan to label almost everything in our house to this end. You know, when I have some free time (ha!).

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Things have been getting better… until this month. We first noticed it with her contributions to her sisters’ homework. Some added embellishment on a title page, unique decorative elements on math pages, and most shocking of all: an actual bite taken out of one assignment. “My sister ate my homework, for real!”

She is immediately disciplined, apologizes and seems genuinely contrite, then I open up my iPhone box and find the pocket guide ripped into tiny little pieces. It took me 1/2 an hour to figure out how to turn the ringer from ‘silent’ to ‘loud’. Grrrrrr!

If one more person tells me what happy and easy children with Down Syndrome are, I am going to kick them in the shin. Then they can help me pull every single card, from every single game we own out from under her dresser and put them back in order. Because, honestly, I’ve just left them there. I’m too tired to face it.

Am I frustrated? Definitely.
Overwhelmed? Occasionally.
Amused? Often.

It’s at times like this that I have to have faith that our parenting methods and our God-given instincts will work in the long run. It’s happened time and time again. We don’t usually see results in a timely fashion, but consistent, patient and firm is bound to pay off… right? That or we seriously consider life in a human bubble – for me.

So here’s me, blogging from the road, on the way to a week-long family holiday. Just what the Dr. ordered. If nothing else, she can rip the cabin apart for a change.


Capital ‘P’

I remember the moment you were born. It was so quiet – not a cry, not a gurgle, nothing… Your Dad tells me that it was only about 30 seconds before you started crying, but I had already started freaking out, “Is she okay?! Is she okay?! What’s wrong?” That little squall was one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard.

When they held you up for me to see I couldn’t believe how adorable you were. I fell even more in love with you. You looked like a little baby burrito and you had the sweetest little face (still do).

We spent the next 4 weeks sitting on uncomfortable stools while peering into the baby aquarium (aka: incubator), then holding you gingerly so as not to jar all the tubes and needles, taking turns driving to the hospital in the middle of the night to try to get you to eat, and finally bringing you home where you belonged. That whole time, while I was scarfing down cafeteria food and covertly skimming through your file, I was researching. While I shadowed the nurses and learned about everything in the special care nursery, I was researching. While I was playing milk cow and preparing tube feedings – still researching.

We were given a stack of books, brochures and web page print outs like you wouldn’t believe. And to be honest, they were helpful. They prepared us for the leukemia scare, the tests and medical procedures, explaining Down Syndrome to your sisters and a thousand other things. But they were filled with frightening statistics and scary possibilities.

You were already so precious to us, and the thought of you facing all those difficulties broke my heart. I wish I had known then what wonderful things lay ahead. I wish they had told me that.

I wish they had told me that you would love with abandon. That one of our biggest problems would be trying to get you to stop kissing EVERYONE. That you would melt the stoniest heart with your huge grin. That we would make friends everywhere we went, because you’re so cute and charming!

I wish they had told me that you would make us laugh everyday with the crazy things you do. That you would pray every single night for God to bless your “chocolate face”. That you would perform beside the TV whenever we watch “So You Think You Can Dance” – ballet, the samba, hip hop… you name it. That you would end each dance, song and occasional mealtime prayer with “Ta Da!”

I wish that they could have told me, along with all those intimidating statistics that there was a 100% chance of fun. That despite all the headaches and heartaches along the way, you would fill our life with pride and laughter and joy. I think this song from MY childhood says it best:

You are a promise.

You are a possibility.

You are a promise, with a Capital ‘P’.

You are a great, big bundle of POTENTIALITY!

So here’s to B, my pride and joy! Happy 7th Birthday!


Extreme Parenting

I was watching T.V. and accidentally skimmed through some sports channels (that would never happen on purpose). I actually stopped when I saw a man (an overgrown boy-child most likely) riding his bike down the mountainside and off a cliff, at which point his parachute opened and he plummeted into the ocean below. Apparently mountain biking wasn’t thrilling enough for him, he just had to add that extra oomph of sky diving. Some people call it pure stupid, but officially it’s extreme sports.

I’ve realized lately that my blogs often include graphic descriptions of my youngest daughter’s habits and issues. Not the most upbeat portrayal of one of the loves of my life. There are so many upsides to being her mom too.

When I’ve tried to explain what it is like being a special needs parent the best phrase that comes to mind is extreme parenting: we have higher highs and lower lows. We go through all the same phases and learn most of the same stuff as other kids, just at a different pace and with some unique twists along the way. Parenting my “typical” children can tie me in knots too, but everything I’ve gone through with her is more – more intense, more time, more guilt, more fear, more pressure, more celebration, more affection…

Up – She gives hugs with her whole body – head snuggled under your chin, arms tight around you with a little pat, pat on your back while her whole body relaxes right in, until you peel her off.

Down – Everything takes longer for her to learn. It is frustrating and discouraging, and that’s just me, I can’t imagine how she must feel. She has to work so much harder than everyone around her and she will never completely catch up.

Up – One of the highlights of my life is her first step. Sure, it was a long time coming (she was 3 1/2) but the celebration is worth the wait. Our whole family danced around the house laughing and cheering. Every accomplishment is a party!

Down – She will always need me. Everytime someone makes an empty nest comment I feel a little pang. Oh, I expect she will live somewhat independantly and have her own life, but she will always need hands-on parenting. She will never go to university, tour Europe with her friends or have children of her own.

Up – She will always need me. My baby will never outgrow us. I will always have unrestrained laughter, silly dances and the best hugs in the world.

Tired of boring old “normal parenting”? Sick of being just like everyone else on the block? Bring a disability into the mix and you’ll meet interesting new people (therapists, doctors, teaching assistants and more), learn new skills and become an expert researcher. You’ll learn to navigate complex government systems and you’ll get an awesome tax break (Glen likes to call B “our little tax write off”). You’ll wrestle with God; you’ll have to trust Him with your future, and hers. But best of all, you’ll realize that your child is worth every little bit of effort and more.

I’m not going to lie, if we were given the choice we would eliminate Down Syndrome from the face of the planet, both for her sake and ours. But I wouldn’t trade my girl for the world! Besides, I’ve always been a big fan of rollercoasters.

So here’s me, enjoying the ride!


**it Happens.

I was in fine form this morning. I lurched out of bed and a curious smell wafted down the hallway. Nothing says “Good morning” quite like this: something our family fondly (okay, not so fondly) refers to as a “craptastrophe.”

And it was all downhill from there. The big girls fought about absurd and unimportant things for hours on end. The checkout lady at the grocery store was the slowest moving land mammal on the planet. My usually attentive husband was watching a mind-numbing golf tournament all day.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Well, they don’t call them truisms for nothing. I was selfish, resentful, impatient, angry and altogether ugly today; so the whole family followed suit.

As my 9 year old stood before me weeping, I kicked the rant into high gear. The yelling was beyond a tone of voice. It felt good to embrace the rage. When I was finally done dressing her down, she hiccupped, “Can… I .. uh… just… uh… say… something?” Grudgingly I allowed her to speak.

This happens often when she’s in trouble. Regardless of how clear the situation, she launches into her version of events, hoping to explain her superior perspective. I suspect she may end up becoming a lawyer like her aunt.

Usually, this only gets her in more trouble. Today, however; at the end of her halting explanation, I was appalled to realize that the entire thing had been a misunderstanding on my part. She hadn’t actually done anything wrong.

That was the low point.

There’s no other way to say it: shittiest parent in the world.

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I wrote this two weeks ago and haven’t quite brought myself to post it. What would be the point? Not only is it an exceptionally un-flattering peek into my world, it is just so depressing.

But then I remember how that day began:  Craptastrophe. For us, this goes beyond a poopy diaper. Thankfully, what was once a bi-weekly experience is now a rare opportunity to test our parenting metal. Our daughter occasionally dabbles in something the developmental psychologists call “smearing”. Perhaps it is a convenient medium for her artistic endeavors. Perhaps she is trying to clean it up. Whatever the reason for this bad habit, when things are very quiet and very smelly, we know what to expect.

I’m sure you have the mental picture: it’s on the sheets, on the walls, on her clothes, in her hair… And if that’s not disgusting enough, she gives us her usual toothy grin. Yep, it’s in her teeth too.

Even now, when we gag and complain and offer each other outrageous favours to do the clean up, she’s still cute and sweet and altogether wonderful to us. We love her just as much even when she’s covered head-to-toe in shit.

Cause that’s what family does. They love me, not matter what: even the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad version of myself. Whatever clean up needs to happen – an apology, several apologies, an anger management course, a time out… I know that they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs.

So here’s us, shovelling it together.


Hmmm… think, think, think.

If you ask my youngest daughter a question, her answer will almost always be “NO”. It doesn’t matter what the topic is or even if you’ve asked a yes/no question. Do you want more? What’s your name? Do you want ice cream? Is Daddy right? (This is a very convenient way for me to recruit a supporter on whatever issue we happen to be discussing.)

Lately she’s upped the ante – now she prefers to shout “NO WAY!” It was cute… the first 300 times. Now, not so much. The problem isn’t stubborness (although she certainly is). The problem isn’t intelligence, as she is quite bright. The problem is slower cognitive processing.

If I were to ask you a question – it would take approximately 3 seconds for you to hear what I’ve said, process the meaning of it, formulate a response and signal the muscles in your body to respond appropriately. Some studies have shown that most people with Down Syndrome take about 45 seconds to do the same.

Now, on paper that doesn’t seem like much, but if you actually count it out – it is a socially unacceptable lag. In a world that moves so quickly, she is constantly bombarded with questions or requests. Not only does it take her longer to understand, but when she actually does respond often people can’t understand what she’s saying. So, the “NO WAY!” reflex was born.

A strategy we are using to try to counteract this habit is saying “Hmmmmmmm!” while tapping her finger on her mouth. It’s a thinking sound and hopefully communicates that she has heard what is asked, but needs some time to process it. We got the idea from our favourite bear with a potty nickname.

I don’t have this problem – in fact, I often speak without thinking. I’m pretty sure this habit of mine causes even more trouble than the “NO WAY!” reflex. I’ve decided that I need to use the “Hmmmmmm” method myself.

I often commit to doing things – without thinking. I express my frustration with my kids – without thinking. I vent whatever emotion I am feeling on my husband – without thinking. I make plans, I share information, I give permission, I jump into the gossip session… all without thinking.

One of my favorite ridiculously-obvious-statement-laced-with-deeper-meaning verses is this:

“But your yes is to be yes and your no, no.” (James 5:12)

In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t open your mouth if you haven’t got something worthwhile to say. Even if you have to take an extra 45 seconds to hum about it.

So here’s me, learning to think, think, think.


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