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The Summertime Blues

posted Friday May 22nd, 2009


I rolled over in bed this morning, and even before I remembered why, something felt different.

That’s right. It’s summer vacation.

No lunches to make, no outfits to dig out of the laundry basket, no butts to kick out the door. Except my own — I still had to get to the office today. 

(Last week a well-meaning friend, a stay-at-home mom, asked, “So, what are you guys doing this summer? Will you be working?” I gritted my teeth, smiled and nodded, thinking, “Yeah, that’s the pesky thing about a full time job.” She meant no ill will, but the question made my guilt rear up. That’s not unusual. When I don’t feel guilty about not being home, I feel guilty about not being at work. Sigh.)

The fancy-free portion of summer vacation lasted about 10 minutes, and ended when I couldn’t convince Sophie to get up off the bathroom floor so I could take off her nighttime diaper. I had a flash, standing there: Sophie’s going to have no structure this summer, no discipline, no crazy-busy schedule to keep her engaged and growing. She won’t behave; why should she? We’re all screwed.

Now, I know that’s not really true. Sophie will have full-time care from the best people I know — our favorite babysitter, who’s a special-ed major; and her former pre-school teacher. She’ll have her full complement of therapies — music, speech, physical and occupational — and Ms. X is going to tutor her regularly in reading and math. As soon as I can manage, I’ll have her in swim lessons and at least one art class, and we’ll arrange for playdates with all kinds of kids. We’ll go camping, to the beach, to the splash park. It’ll be a darn good summer.

But no, it still won’t be the stimulation she got this past year, in Ms. X’s kindergarten classroom. In other states (I think maybe even in other school districts in Arizona) there are full time summer programs for special needs kids, paid for by the government, designed to keep them from losing ground during time away from school. Not here. Two summers in a row, I was told, “Oooooh, well, gee whiz, no, Sophie won’t qualify for any sort of summer program. And even if we did put her in one, those kids, well….” And the administrator would mumble something about those other kids not being the kids I’d want Sophie around. You know, low functioning.

As usual, I could sue. Instead, I’ll make do. We’ll have a good summer, I know we will, but still, I stood watching Sophie on the bathroom floor this morning, and thought about how comfortable she was in Ms. X’s classroom, with her routine, her life there as the Queen of Kindergarten. Yesterday, while the other kids sat on the floor to watch Kung Fu Panda, Sophie helped herself to Ms. X’s rocking chair, grabbed a book and settled in, with Piglet on her lap.

Next year, she’ll be a peasant in first grade (at best, at least for a while), and for now, she’s in purgatory. When I left the house this morning, Sophie was out of her diaper, happily kicking her sister’s butt at bowling on the Wii we gave her yesterday for her birthday (a present for the whole family, obviously). Well, maybe she wasn’t kicking Annabelle’s butt, but she had just announced she got a strike.

I’ll take that as a good sign.

Then again, maybe it would be better if we let Sophie rot in a corner, this summer, or least stew a little. After all, if her IQ doesn’t go down 14 points by the end of July, she loses all of her therapies.

Maybe kindergarten ended not a moment too soon.

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2 Responses to “The Summertime Blues”

  1. Love the new look at the new page!

    I think we all do better with a little structure. While we’re glad for summer, it does have it’s downside in that we all are a little more volatile (over here, anyway) without something “specific” to do each day.

  2. I am just so riled up at a system that punishes a person with Down Syndrome by removing services for being too high functioning, due to the therapies. Unfathomable bullshit if I may be so blunt. If anyone knew how to appeal this kind of system breakdown it would be you, but I’d sure love to do something….

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