Snapshot from the Carpool Lane

posted Friday March 7th, 2014

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After two tardy slips this week, I was determined to get Sophie to school in plenty of time to make the bell, and in my rush I didn’t notice that she’d left the house in patent leather party shoes and sweatpants.

It wasn’t until she’d leaned over from the backseat for several goodbye kisses, handing me the rest of her cranberry juice and climbing out of the car that I noticed her glasses slipping down her nose or the fact that her Olivia the Pig backpack — the one she dug out and insists on using, even though it was her backpack in first grade, or maybe kindergarten — looked ridiculous on the back of a fifth grader.

Just half an hour earlier, we were giggling and taking photos of today’s outfit, Sophie posing like a fashion model — or what she thinks one looks like — in her silly poodle tee shirt, with our pet poodle on the floor behind her. That was in the bubble of our kitchen.

The school is a bubble, too, a place she feels comfortable, “home” for the last six years. But as I watched Sophie head to the playground, I  cringed. Almost immediately, she bumped into a gaggle of girls, fellow fifth graders, kids she’s been in school with since kindergarten (some even pre-school), girls who used to invite her to their birthday parties.

I watched Sophie stop next to the girls, hesitate, lean in a little. I watched them completely ignore her.

It happened in a matter of seconds. I rolled down my window, wanting to yell to her — but what?

“Hey Sophie, no time to stop. You better rush to class.”

“Hey Sophie, don’t worry about them! Just keep walking! That’s what I did when I was in fifth grade.” 

“Hey Sophie, I love you.” 

In the end, I didn’t say anything. As quickly as I rolled it down, I rolled the window back up, embarrassed. Other cars were waiting. As I pulled away, I saw Sophie hesitate another few seconds, looking hopeful, then she shuffled toward the playground, her party shoes a little too big, hair in her eyes. It was that hope that was so hard to see, hope that by the fifth grade has been beaten out of all the other kids, who have figured out their rankings on the social hierarchy and know better than to cast a wishful gaze in the direction of someone more popular.

Those girls didn’t laugh at Sophie, or say anything mean. They just looked past her as though she wasn’t there. I am guessing if they hadn’t, she would have asked a million questions, invited them all for sleepovers, offered them my cell phone number and a paintbrush from her collection. Too much. I get it.

But what does Sophie get?

It won’t matter next year. All of those girls — a huge percentage of the entire fifth grade, in fact — will be going to the academy across the street, the one the district started to compete with charter schools, the one that requires As and Bs. The one I could sue to get Sophie into — if I wanted. Some days, I want to. Today, pulling away from the school, I did not.

 

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

10 Responses to “Snapshot from the Carpool Lane”

  1. This made my heart hurt. Love her. Love you.

  2. sigh.

  3. Many days I feel like you can read my mind and are writing my words. Thank for writing about these experiences for me and all the other moms out there. Know that you are not alone.

  4. Oh mama.

  5. Oh mama.

  6. Oh, my heart.

  7. Pain in my chest from reading this. Oy oy oy.

  8. A touching piece. Children can be taught kindness and compassion. Hugs to you and Sophie.

  9. This “leaving out” and exclusion is so subtle and so pervasive, it should be the next line of attack in the efforts against bullying. My daughter transferred into a public school for 8th grade this year (from private and with no special ed issues) and there was no bullying. There was just no attention paid to her at all, like she was invisible. She was not included in anything, no one said hello to her. Of course, it’s so different for Sophie to have been friends with these girls, to have known them for so long, but the sting of it – it really makes me crazy.

  10. This made me tear up. But Sophie looks like a J. Crew model, and the Crew is showing skinny sweatpants with flats this year. Sophie is right on track.

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