A friend commented on my last post saying that it was bittersweet. And isn’t that exactly what sending your children to school is: bittersweet. You know that it will be good for them, that they learn new things, experience new things, have fun and make new friends…we hope…and yet…
Today, was Ella’s turn. Her very first day of preschool. I was and am very confident with our decision for preschool for Ella. She is going to a Christian preschool and is under the care of two women I have known for most of my life and shared ministry with. Their approach is relaxed and fun and more than anything, nurturing. I know it will be a good fit for Ella and today proved that. Ella was eager to begin and ran in with open arms to give her teachers “hello” hugs. When the class settled onto mats to hear instructions for the day, she sat and listened, then put her mat away in suit and without prompting, began to play. She still plays quite independently, as almost all the children were in the classroom and when she wanted to interact with another child, would squat quietly beside until an introduction was initiated. She was clear with her preferences, sat nicely and ate her snack with the other kids and joined hands as they formed a circle for circle time. All in all, she did great!
And yet, as I watched her play beside other children her age, I feared for her. Oddly enough, I can honestly say that it rarely bothers me that Ella is not on par with her age group. It doesn’t bother me that she doesn’t speak, or that she has a shorter attention span. It doesn’t bother me that she isn’t completely potty trained. And it doesn’t bother me that she is not doing whatever else it is that she is supposed to be doing but isn’t – I am even struggling to come up with a list because I can’t tell what it is exactly, about her that makes her seem less developed or younger or….disabled? Except that today, as they went around saying their names, she was the only one that did not say her name. And it was in that moment that fear set in.
What if, she doesn’t make friends?
What if none of the other children want to play with her because she doesn’t speak?
What if none of the other children want to play with her because they realize that she is different?
What if, when other children are hand in hand in the playground, she is alone?
What it, she doesn’t care?
Because chances are, at this age, she won’t. She loves her teachers and would be just as happy to have their attention than anybody else’s.
It almost makes me want to solicit friendships for her.
“Friends needed for a little girl with Down Syndrome. She is very fun-loving, non-confrontational, sweet and caring. Loves playing with dolls, colouring and long walks on the beach.”
It sounds absurd and yet….