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Floating Down the Mainstream

posted Tuesday October 1st, 2013

When Sophie announced that each of the kids in her fifth grade class had been invited to attend parent/teacher conferences this fall, I knew we wouldn’t get much done at the meeting. She was so excited about this morning’s conference that I only had to remind her a half dozen times to get dressed, and she accepted the first outfit I selected, which never happens. She didn’t insist we go to IHOP for breakfast and yelled at me to skip a shower (don’t worry, I didn’t take her advice) then hustled us out the door, her backpack almost as tall as she is.

I resist these rituals, the easily managed measures parents take to ensure the success and safety of their typical kids. It’s why I hate curriculum night and meet the teacher day, all reminders of how it’s supposed to be done, a not-so-happy by-product of life in the mainstream. You’re supposed to dispense of all concerns and issues surrounding your child in a 15 minute conversation with the classroom teacher. In our case, the aide and the resource teacher were there, as well, and we didn’t scratch the surface — and that wasn’t only because Sophie interrupted every 30 seconds or so.

“Watch this everyone!” she said, pecking me on the lips. “Just Mommy, not Santa!” (We’ve been over this a thousand times, narrowing down the list of people Sophie’s allowed to kiss to one — me.) Long after our allotted time was over, Sophie was still struggling to pull her chair from the top of her desk to show me her daily ritual. I winced; the other adults looked on peacefully, infinitely patient — on the outside, anyway.

I smiled and nodded and offered to come and make sugar skulls with the kids for Halloween, because really, what else can I do? Sophie has now fallen below grade level  in reading, right on schedule. Her report card says “B” for math — but that’s Sophie math. We’re going to have to hire a tutor just to help her figure out the concept of money, in spite of the efforts made at school.

As usual, Ray’s the realist. “Look at her scores,” he said this morning before school, going over the numbers on the standardized math and reading tests. “This isn’t so bad.”

“Do you need help in math?” I asked, exasperated.

“Look,” he said. “Sophie still gets 2 plus 3 mixed up sometimes. But her vocabulary is great and she puts sentences and concepts together. Who cares about the tests?”

He’s right, he’s right, I know he’s right. And next time I might make him sit through the parent/teacher conference.

For her part, Sophie was thrilled. In the stack of papers I brought home was her self-assessment her teacher had each of the kids fill out. I thought about it, driving to work. Sophie feels like she’s doing really well in all of her subjects. How would my life look if I felt that good about myself? Here’s how it looks now:


In work I feel I did: Very Well * Well * Not as Well as I Could Have Done

In housekeeping I feel I did Very Well * Well * Not as Well as I Could Have Done

In spending quality time with my husband I feel I did Very Well * Well * Not as Well as I Could Have Done

In remembering friends’ birthdays even with the aid of Facebook I feel I did Very Well * Well * Not as Well as I Could Have Done

In diet/exercise I feel I did Very Well * Well * Not as Well as I Could Have Done

In parenting I feel I did Very Well * Well * Not as Well as I Could Have Done * Hey, You Look at Sophie’s Test Scores and Tell Me

In procrastinating by obsessively re-organizing craft supplies I’ll never use I feel I did Very Well * Well * Not as Well as I Could Have Done

I’ll end on a high note. You get the picture.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

3 Responses to “Floating Down the Mainstream”

  1. Oh, Amy. In writing, keeping a sense of perspective, humility, finding a community to sustain you, appreciating the people around you, plate-collecting, and so much more, you should feel you did VERY WELL. Really.

    And now you have me thinking, comparing my own self-assessment back in school days (I feel I did very well, and my teachers concurred) to my self-assessment now, when, in so many areas, I, too, am “not as well as I could have done.” And that makes me think that something’s wrong, not with us ourselves but with the impossible expectations that our culture places on mothers.

  2. I guess I wonder how she stacks up with other children like her-of course we’re all individuals but you know what I mean. I’m going to guess, judging from what I’ve heard and read, that she’s a pretty special kid. In fact, I’m sure she is. Hey, we all have our strengths. I see hers in every post that you write. We all worry about our kids (mine are your age and I still worry about them fitting in!) and I realize that you have special concerns but from the outside looking in, you seem to have it under control. So if I were grading you, I’d give you “No improvement needed”.

  3. We have a co-worker who once told me something like, “As far as I can tell, just about everybody’s doing the best they can.” And even though I don’t think I’m super-mean or judgmental (outside my own home, at least), I thought, “Oh, my God, you’re right.” How hard do I try to do something someone else might consider half-assed? (You’re lucky — for you, I do the one thing I’m probably best at.)

    I realize it sounds treacly and does not make life’s struggles appreciably less oppressive. But “the best you can” is all anybody is expected to do. To give more time and energy to one thing, you HAVE to take it from another. It’s the only way.

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