Today was Reese’s 1st Grade Holiday Performance … and I couldn’t have been dreading anything more.
You may be wondering why.
Well, it all goes back to last year at Reese’s Kindergarten Holiday Performance. It was horrible. Reese experienced something that no child ever should. And I was there to witness it all go down. I spoke and wrote very little about the experience. It was a wound I felt very personally. Not just for myself but for my daughter. It broke my heart and for the first time in her life I was thankful that Reese didn’t understand. Sadly, deep down I know that I was just kidding myself by saying that. Reese knew something was very wrong that day.
Despite having had a good friend with me who agreed that what we had both witnessed was terrible, I sent pictures and video of the event to every educator I knew asking for their input. They were all shocked. I had people ready to write letters of complaint and in support of Reese. People willing to contact the media. It never came down to that, but trust me, I handled it. Apologies went flying. People took responsibility. I’ll be honest, NOTHING made it better. NOTHING. The damage was done.
If you know me, you know that I don’t believe inclusion is right for every child with special needs. I believe academically Reese would not do well in a fully included environment. I believe that there are some things that she’s capable of learning right along with her typical peers. But there are many things that she’s not. And I’m OK with that. When you have a child with Down Syndrome you come to understand that life and learning and lessons and growth take on a different time frame. I call Reese my “Fountain of Youth”. I find beauty in allowing her to become who she’s meant to be, on her time. I find joy in watching her master things that took longer than they “should have”. She reminds me to slow down. She proves to me every day that the saying, “Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” couldn’t be more true. She helps me stay and appreciate living in the moment. She is a God given gift.
Despite believing that academically it’s not in Reese’s best interest to be fully included, I do believe that there are MANY things that she can and should do with her typical peers. She can play. She can dance. And she can sing. And when she does, she feels the same joy in her heart as they do. She should NEVER be robbed of that. NOT. EVER.
Today I got to watch Reese walk into the auditorium on her own, along with all the other children in 1st Grade. She climbed up the stage, she walked to her spot and she stood amongst her fellow special and typical peers. She sang with them to the best of her ability. I saw her sing “pumpkin pie” during a song. And I did my best not to breakdown and cry. My baby sang “pumpkin pie” just like every one else, sandwiched between her typical friends. She loved every moment of it. I beamed with pride.
Yet, I also wanted to weep.
My heart grieved for what happened last year. Today’s performance was exactly what I wanted. What I NEEDED as a mother. And it’s exactly what Reese deserved.
We were robbed last year. Today performance didn’t “right” what happened. Nothing ever will. But it did bring us both moments of utter joy. And it reminded me that the pain I felt last year made me stronger and more fierce for my daughter. It reminded me of how important it is that I be her voice and demand she be respected. Put simply, today’s performance was an example of how Reese’s world SHOULD BE. Every. Damn. Day.
Well, I hope you all have a day where your HOPE is restored!!!