When Beth was little, she was just one of the kids. At home, at church. She played with them, hung out with them, went horseback riding, did crafts. (I was the over-protective crazy mom. When her Missionette group went horseback riding, I didn't know if she could do it so I ran along side. The entire mile trail. Jumping over bushes... SO embarrassing when I think about it now.) But Beth was just a regular kid.
(Beth is in red, sitting on the couch)
When all of these friends reached Jr High, things began to change. At school, the teachers wanted to keep Beth in Grade school one more year. As hard as I fought, I knew they were probably right. She wasn't ready for Jr. High. At church, their Sunday school class was getting into topics that were over her head. So we took her out of class and had her sit with us in church. A decision I regret now. Even if she didn't understand the discussion, maybe she would have gotten more out of it then we thought. And keeping her out caused her to grow away from her friends. The better way to say that is that her friends grew away from her. They were the ones changing. As they should. Beth was still only around 6 or 7 mentally.
I showed Beth how to shave her underarms and her legs, but she wasn't interested. (The ironic thing is, today her arms and legs do not have any hair!! I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had never started shaving...) Well anyway, I showed Beth how to put on make up too, but she didn't care about that either. Meanwhile her friends were all entering high school and Beth was not keeping up. I really began to see the differences between her and her peers. For me, that's when her having Down Syndrome really became difficult. I would see her friends learning to drive, going out to the movies, just hanging out and Beth wasn't a part of that anymore.
Beth has one seat that she sits in at church. We've attended there since she was 4 and for years, her seat is in the 'youth section' (it's not an official section, it's just where the youth always sit) second row, on the right end. She goes in early, puts her coat over the back, her bag on the floor, then goes to the coffee stand to get a strawberry banana smoothy. She knows she can't take the drink into the Sanctuary so she leaves it at the main information booth. All the ladies there know Beth will be back for it! I will never forget one Sunday, Beth was coming back into the Sanctuary to sit down. An old friend (one of the kids in one of the above photos) was sitting in the seat next to Beths. She sat down, got all settled and this 'friend' after watching Beth, picked up their stuff and moved to another seat. I sat there with my mouth hanging open. I couldn't believe it!!! Beth of course, didn't even notice, but I was stunned. (Well, at least I think Beth didn't notice. This was years ago and she never said anything. Gosh, one more thing to worry about!)
Beth joined the youth choir at church but after a year was asked to leave. They brought me in for a meeting and explained that Beth just wasn't able to keep up. They were right. When she got tired, she would sit down, right there on the platform in the middle of a song. She just couldn't keep the pace that was needed. So we pulled her out. I want to try her again, but I honestly don't know if she has the stamina.
Today all those friends that Beth grew up with are getting married. They're moving away and having children. Beth.... sits downstairs watching TV. I still check her toenails once a month. I still help her with the laundry. I take her grocery shopping. A big day for her is when we go out to eat. I don't think it's just us. This is the very reason Gene developed All Aboard. His son grew up as just another kid. He had a lot of friends, then he graduated from high school, his friends got married and moved away and Mike sat in his room. The All Aboard bowling event started with just 5-10 kids. The latest newsletter stated they now have over 100 bowlers each week! Adults with special needs have a difficult time fitting in.
It's not hard to jump on a trampoline or throw water balloons. But getting married? Driving cars? Having your own apartment? Those are huge. I'm not saying our kids will never do those things. I am saying you will see the differences in your child and their peers at that point in their lives. I find those differences the most difficult. It's been harder for me to accept Beth having Down Syndrome as an adult than it was when she was a kid. For kids, (any kid, every kid) most things are physical; crawling, walking, learning to tie shoes, running, etc. But as they become older, life becomes a mental game; teenagers lying, trying to get away with things, geometry, college applications, etc.
And it's Beth's mental abilities that we're so unsure of.