Yippy!

Wil was sandwiched between Katherine and Elizabeth in a 3-seater row. At 10 years old, Wil had made this flight to visit his grandparents nearly as many years. Though nestled between his sisters, Wil reveled in his independent position across the aisle from me.

The first two hours of the flight were without incident. Then a high-pitched yipping sliced through the last hour of our flight. Wil immediately clamped his hands over his ears and folded himself in half (a hypotonic trick), his chest directly on top of his legs. A tiny dog, seated in the row directly in front of him, would not let up its rant. Elizabeth snapped her head in my direction. I read her mind instantly: Where were Wil’s noise-cancelling headphones? I thrust my finger at Wil’s carry-on bag in front of his seat. She grabbed the headphones and placed them over Wil’s ears.

Have you ever watched a movie barely noticing a curse word, but when you watched the same movie with your kids you were shocked at how many curse words there were? That is how loud noises are when I’m with Wil. I know they can pop up unexpectedly, even in familiar situations, and I need to have noise-cancelling headphones at the ready.

Wil was in such an agitated state from the tiny dog’s yipping, that the headphones didn’t calm him. I pulled him up from his seat and sat him on my lap across the aisle. While soothing Wil, I was startled by a flight attendant standing near my seat. She stood in such a way that she blocked Wil’s view from the yipping dog. She handed Wil a packet of pretzels, then discreetly showed me a snack size Milky Way bar. I nodded my head.

“Here, Wil,” she said, handing him the Milky Way bar. “This is what you do. Take a bite of pretzel, then a bite of chocolate. It’s the best.”

I couldn’t tell if Wil was marveled by this idea or by seeing a new, friendly face. Either way, he was blissfully distracted from the yippy background noise. Marcie introduced herself then asked Wil how old he was, his teacher’s name and what he liked to do for fun. Wil made a few sideways glances past Marcie toward the yippy dog, then she’d draw back his attention by asking another question.

When the pilot announced our plane’s descent, I knew Wil would need to return to his seat. Marcie smoothed the way with two extra Milky Ways (“for later,” she said with a wink). She also gave Katherine and Elizabeth a few Milky Way bars for being the best sisters.

Wil made his way back to his seat, nestled again between his best sisters, all richer for their Milky Way bars and for knowing Marcie.

To this day, 3 years later, I could swear I saw a hazy band of light following Marcie as she made her way down the aisle.

Drop It To The Floor!

When Wil drops himself on the floor, there are times when someone who doesn’t know him well will step up and say, “Let me try.”

“Have at it,” I say. Then I sit back and observe what I already know is going to happen. I can’t always predict the exact words, but I do know the tune with which the words are played. It’s a sweet tone; syrupy sweet. The notes tilt up as they go, the sentence always ending in higher notes.

I know this tune, I’ve used it before. But it’s not getting him off the floor. Though the tune is sweet, the words are still based in someone else’s agenda, not his. And he knows that. If the Pied Piper came to town, Wil would be the sole remaining child. Unless, of course, the Pied Piper was well-versed in Luke Bryan. Then Wil would fall into step.

If it’s not his tune, he’s not budging. Though he may appreciate the sweetness of the notes, underneath it he knows it for what it is. Your tune, not his. No amount of syrup is going to slide him in your direction. Unless of course, it’s in a bottle of Sprite. Then you’ll be singing his kind of song.

At home, if I want more of a cool, calm vibe, I’ll ask Alexa to play “Van Morrison Station.” Wil will throw his head back and holler out, “Ugh, Mom! Alexa play Luke Bryan Station!” Then he’ll start breaking out his latest dance moves. “Watch this, Mom!”

It’s not that hard to get Wil off the floor, unless, of course, you aren’t playing his tune.

I AM NOT GRATEFUL

November is the month of gratitude, so I thought it timely to share this previously written post on why…

I AM NOT GRATEFUL

I was not grateful when I learned Wil had Down syndrome.

I am not grateful my marriage was challenged by our differing timetables of acceptance.

I am not grateful my relationships with certain teachers have been strained by differing ideas of how to approach Wil’s behaviors.

I am not grateful that I’m entering an era of hormones, girlfriends, and widening gaps within Wil’s peer group.

I am not grateful for the stereotypes and ignorance my son will experience.

I do cry. I do get angry. I do get frustrated. I do things I regret. I am not grateful for these things.

I am grateful for a deeper level of acceptance I would not have known if Wil didn’t have Down syndrome.

I am grateful my husband and I now share a deeper bond and respect for the challenges we worked through.

I am grateful that each day, month, and year, I learn more about special education laws, advocacy, and the fact we are human and make mistakes.

I am grateful for second chances.

I am grateful that I have come to know a strong group of proactive parents I can laugh with and learn from. I am grateful to call these strong, compassionate people my friends.

I am grateful these experiences have compelled me to widen my perspective.

I am grateful for the advancement of acceptance so my son may have increased opportunities for a fulfilling life.

I am grateful I can contribute to the advancement of acceptance and increased opportunities.

I do smile. I do rejoice. I do feel joy. I do things I am proud of. I am grateful for these things.

I am grateful my gratitude creates a deeper well for the times I am not grateful.