Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Swimming In the Mainstream

I soooo wanted to play hooky from Sunday School last week. I was exhausted by the very thought of getting the kids and myself up, dressed and fed, clearing a pathway through the house for the babysitter, gulping down a few swigs of coffee, and rushing to get to synagogue by 9:00 to spend a few hours surrounded by toddlers.

Every fiber of my being was screaming for me to pull the covers up over my head and stay in my lovely warm bed. But I made a commitment long ago that I would give Bug every possible opportunity to spend time and socialize with his peers, and to do what kids his age *should* be doing - going to camp, running around the park, learning how to swim and play soccer, and celebrating his Jewish heritage. It is not as easy as it sounds. My heart ties up in knots as I watch him approach other kids in the park with his sweet, trusting expression. I pray that they will accept him into their group for awhile - and they usually do - but I just dread the day that kids will turn him away because he looks a little different, because he can't run as fast or speak as clearly.

If I had my way I would never let Bug into the cold, cruel world - I'd much prefer to keep him at home where he is so loved and cherished, where his baby sister Bee follows him around squealing with laughter, where he can disco dance to ABBA and watch his beloved Muppet Movie and stomp in puddles in the yard and never have to deal with people's rude stares and pointed questions. At home nobody gives a damn about his extra chromosome - but it won't do Bug any favors to keep him sheltered forever. So last summer I gathered up my courage and sent him to JCC camp, where he ran happily off every morning to bake his own challah and climb on the monkey bars and finger paint and sing and dance with his friends. He even had kids who ate lunch with him every day. He fit in so well that I was surprised to learn that he is the first camper they have ever had who has Down Syndrome.

And that's why every other week, no matter how much I crave a lazy Sunday morning, I make sure we show up to Classroom 2 by 9:00 sharp. I stay with the class the whole time so I can pitch in when I need to. I am thrilled to see how well Bug follows along with the music and singing, even though much of it is in Hebrew. He loves to do the art projects, often getting completely covered in glitter, glue, yarn, stickers, confetti and fingerpaint. He sits down quietly for snack time and even knows the blessing over the bread (or, more typically, the graham crackers).

Of course he also has a tough time sitting still for story time, STRONGLY resists coming in from the playground after recess, and would often rather poke through the multiple bins of toys and puzzles then participate in whatever educational activity the teacher has planned. In this, he is no different from all the other 3 and 4 year olds in the class. Except that once again he is a pioneer - the only child with Down Syndrome in the entire congregation, and certainly the only disabled kid who is taking his rightful place in class with his peers.


Post a Comment

<< Home