Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Temporary Struggles

I'm struggling today. Most of the time, having a child with Down syndrome feels completely "normal." Well, for me, it is normal. It's all I know. I don't have any other children, so I'm not plugged into the mommy community. Being a working mother (except during the summers), working far from home, and living in a town where I know virtually nobody means that we don't come into close contact with people who don't already know Max. Even at the playground, conversations with other mothers rarely happen spontaneously. Massachusetts is not known for friendliness.

The playground is actually where this little story begins.  Tuesdays at 3:00 in the summer means an hour with Jennie, Max's developmental specialist. I had our day all planned so that Max would be well-rested, well-fed and happy when she came, but around 2:00 Jennie sent a text reminding me that our hour is rescheduled for Thursday morning. Bummer. What do we do now? The park!

We don't live very close to the park--we don't live very close to anything--so whenever we go there we have to drive. So I gathered up Max and headed out the door attempting to dampen that spark of hope that burns deep in my gut, the hope that the playground will connect me to another mother in my own town.

There weren't many people there today. Just two mothers, each with one small child, and one left soon after we arrived.

Max doesn't like the park much, probably because he doesn't walk yet. Frankly, I don't blame him. But, following our routine, we went to the swings first. Max seems to like them the best.

After about five minutes he started reaching for me, signaling his loss of interest. From there we headed to the sand box--more of a dirt box--but Max likes to watch the particles fall through his fingers. "Like," however, is relative. He likes it more than he hates it, but as you can see in this photo of a previous playground excursion he is a little less than enthused.

Seriously, Mom. You call this fun?
Now back to the other park-goers. By now there is only one other mother-and-child pair besides Max and me. Uncharacteristically for this park (or maybe any park in MA), "other mother" is friendly and asks me Max's age. "21 months," I say, and I see momentary confusion pass across her face. "How old is your son?" He's a super-cute toe-head who's walking and climbing all over the place, and looks like he about as big as Max.

"15 months," she says.

Feeling a little dejected I say, "Wow, he really gets around."

"Yeah, he sure does. At 11 months he just wanted to get up and go!"

"Max is taking his time."

"Yeah." And there it is. One word says it all. This seemingly lovely woman doesn't know how to handle the situation. And the funny thing is, I don't either. Do I tell her he has Down syndrome and risk making her even more uncomfortable? Do I act like it's not even an issue when it clearly is? (Evidence = it's awkward)

I've never been good at awkward. (I mean, who is? Being good at awkward would paradoxically make it no longer awkward.) And as explained above, I'm a little socially isolated in my little town  here. I don't have a safety net of friends like my husband or Kelle Hampton do. I'm a fish out of water, with a child who has Down syndrome, and nobody less than 30 minutes away to lean on.

So, since Max is showing obvious signs of boredom, I make our excuses and we leave.

What would you have done? I'd really like to know.

Check out this letter. It explains a bit my fears and concerns. Bravo!


  1. Hey, I certainly can understand your feelings... I can still clearly remember a trip to the playground when Alex was 2.5 and still saying "mamamamama" and there was a little child, only 20 or so months who was saying full sentences... combine that with my "larger than normal" child who looked like she should have been 4 and the looks I got from the other parents thinking "What's wrong with her?", I starting crying and literally scooped her up and ran to the car... People don't understand differences and most people don't ask. You're right on with the unfriendly moms... I started putting it out there... yeh, she's over the top of the chart in height, but really only x months... she has a speech delay, but she CAN... I also tried to figure out "who was worth it" and I learned that most strangers in the park aren't... I also learned that there are definite different playground cultures... call me and i'll set you up with some good ones :-) I know where that pic above was taken and it's not the friendliest... Keep remembering how wonderful he IS! Big hug!

    1. Hey Shannon, is that you? :) I'd love to get together and do that. I remember you taking me around town when I first moved here and gave me the scoop on lots of things, but I don't remember very much (ooops). A refresher would be great.!