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Cheese Touch

posted Thursday September 29th, 2011

“Here Mom, you can have the rest of this,” Sophie said, gathering her book bag and paintbrushes, then  handing me the slobbery, rubbery piece of cheese she’d nibbled all the way around on the drive to school.

Watching the cheese hand-off, the sweet teacher helping her out of the car in the drop-off line laughed; so did I, and I was so distracted by the wet cheese in my hand that I didn’t realize I was dropping Sophie off in front of the school office, rather than the playground, where she’s supposed to go to line up for class.

Uh oh. 

Sophie hopped out, told me she loved me, and was headed on her way when I finally had a chance to roll down my window and holler, “Hey, Sophie, be sure to line up with your class! Don’t go in the office!”

The sweet teacher heard me and echoed my words, Sophie nodded, and as I was starting to pull away, I noticed she’d marched herself right up to the office door.

“HEY!” I called out the window. Sophie turned and looked at me, then turned back and opened the door.

“It’s okay!” the sweet teacher said. “She’ll make her way to her classroom eventually.”

Maybe I should have let her go. But I’d just had a long chat this morning on this very subject — Sophie not following the rules at school — with our state services coordinator. So I turned off the car and bolted into the office, where Sophie was standing in front of the secretary, waiting for her late slip.

“Sophie, the bell didn’t ring yet,” the secretary said. “Not even the first bell.”

But Sophie refused to budge. I had to count all the way to “3″ — threatening to carry her to class — before she finally moved toward the door. We walked together to the playground. I hadn’t been to the playground with Sophie in weeks; either Ray’s dropped her off, lately, or we’ve done the drop-off lane.

Just inside the school gate, I saw a gaggle of Sophie’s classmates — little girls she’s been with since kindergarten, girls she’s grown farther and farther away from, girls in grown-up tween-ish Disney channel outfits, girls telling secrets, girls who glanced over at us and quickly away, their lips curled up slightly. One of them smiled slightly at me, looking guilty. Then she turned away, too.

Sophie didn’t seem to notice them. “Cuddle!” she said, nestling against me. She stuck her thumb in her mouth and I thought about how we’re two months into the school year without a single birthday party invitation and about how I really don’t blame these little girls for ignoring Sophie. She’s got to be more and more like an alien creature to them as they grow up and she doesn’t. No wonder Sophie’d rather hang out with the school secretary.

The bell finally rang (a couple minutes had begun to feel like a couple hours) and it shook me back to reality and the fact that I’d abandoned my car.

I looked up and there was Sophie’s classroom aide, an incrdibly nice woman whose patience with my child has got to be wearing thin. The aide smiled a big smile and after a quick protest and a nudge from me, Sophie ran to her and buried her head up against the woman’s hip and I wondered for the umpteenth time if the whole aide thing is a good idea or not.

The aide showed both of us some awesome new stickers she’d found for Sophie’s daily behavior charts, I told Sophie I loved her one last time, and the two of them made their way to the classroom line-up.

I walked to the car, wondering why I’m trying so hard to fit my square peg into a round circle — and how I’m going to get that mushy cheese out of my cupholder.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

3 Responses to “Cheese Touch”

  1. Not wimpy. Very, very brave.

  2. I THINK I know inclusion is a good idea – I’ve HEARD it’s a good idea… but scornful tween girls are vicious prey animals & little else strikes as much fear into my heart. Gah.

  3. I feel like kind of a comment stalker recently, but your posts are just hitting so close to home. We’re still in pre-K this year, but my son will go into Kindergarten in an inclusion classroom, or so everyone assumes.

    I have really mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’d be furious if any kid was excluded from a general ed classroom based purely on a diagnosis (even a general one of developmental delay or whatever). On the other hand, my main goal for my kid is for him to have a positive, happy learning experience where he can achieve HIS best. If that turns out to be a square hole, I think I’m ok with that. I just never want to go for the easy option because I’m afraid of dealing with the hard stuff (like, as krir says, the vicious tweens). I really admire all the effort you are making for Sophie. You’re a good mom.

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