Tonawanda News — I’ve written a lot here about my older son, who has Down Syndrome.
I’ve shared some challenges, a few frustrations, sorrows (including our recent attempt at swimming lessons) and many of the joys. I’ve written about how often I forget about it, though sometimes I can’t. (Sometimes you just have to face things head-on.) The response has been wonderful and encouraging, and for that, I thank you.
We’ve passed another milestone in our house recently, one that has me by turns relieved (mostly), pleased ... and thoughtful. Unlike most milestones, I realized, I hadn’t even considered noting it in a column. And it was the reasons for this, more than the milestone itself, that had me considering why.
I wasn’t pleased with the conclusion I finally had to draw. I didn’t like admitting that — just maybe — I was embarrassed. How could that be? I love Jim very much. I don’t care that he has some special needs. I’ve been vocal in pointing out to people that kids with Down Syndrome are just like anyone else and though they might hit a milestone later than their peers, they can still hit it. That kids — all kids — do things when they’re ready, and sometimes that’s later than with others.
Eventually the conclusion I drew is that I was embarrassed. But not of Jim, not at all. Of myself.
If I had just worked a little harder, maybe things would click. If I had just a little bit more time to spend on it, maybe it would have happened years ago. If I had done this — done that — done whatever, things would have been faster and easier.
But examining it now, I wonder. I did work hard at it. I did try many, many things (and lots of time). I (or more appropriately, we) tried and tried and tried.
But sometimes kids just have to be ready. And with children with special needs, that might take longer.
It’s no one’s fault. It just ... is.
Having come to that conclusion, I had to decide if I wanted to write about it. One: No matter how much I love writing this column, some things are no one’s business but ours. Two: I didn’t like admitting that embarrassment, not even if it was at myself. Not one little bit.
Finally, I decided to share this because I know there are parents out there going through the same things we did. They feel the frustration. They watch other kids — whether those with similar health issues or the so-called “normal” ones — and wonder if what they’re doing, how they’re feeling, is wrong. They hide the embarrassment, not of their children, but of their own perceived shortcomings. They wonder if it will ever get better.
So I’m here to say: Yes. It will.
Keep working. Keep trying. Don’t give up. Eventually something will click. Your child will just be ready, or a method will make a connection that wasn’t made before.
There is hope. Yes, there is. I have a little boy who is happily wearing Elmo underpants right now, something I nearly gave up hope of seeing many times over the past five years as potty-training method after method failed. We bribed him, we worked with him, we watched him like hawks ... weary, distracted hawks, but hawks nonetheless. We even pointed to his successfully trained sibling. He just didn’t care.
And then, one day ... he did.
Was it him? Was it something we did? I don’t know. But after weeks ... months ... years ... of persistence, I can take a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
So, to parents of many other kids: Don’t give up. Take a deep breath. Hang in there.
It gets better.
Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @JillKeppeler.