My Down syndrome son and I are in our 5th year at the high school. It’s actually my 12th year there, beginning with my other children, but this son is starting his 5th year because Special Education students can stay in our school system through age 21. He’s just turning 19 and this is his first “super senior” year at the school.
For some reason, one morning on that ages-old route to school, I took notice of the students and parents inside the cars around us for the first time. There was a mother speaking with much animation toward her daughter, a mom appearing to console a son, and a teen speaking in a vigorous way to a father. What was going on in there? It was so visually dramatic that it really caught my attention. I wondered what other scenes I had missed over the years in what I thought of as a very banal part of the day.
I asked myself “What do we look like as we drive along in the press of others who are, shall we say, not-the-first-to-arrive at school on a given day?” “If someone looks in our car, do we look stressed, or angry, or uninterested in each other?”
I know that my son’s face at rest can look very vacant even though he isn’t disconnected at all. Did I look cross to someone one morning because I was sleepy, and did they think he was sad because of that detached look? I hope that didn’t happen. There is so much life in my boy, even when his face isn’t showing it.
I remembered one day when something I said turned out to apparently be the funniest thing that my son had ever heard in the world. He laughed so hard I couldn’t keep myself from taking his picture even though I was driving. It still makes me laugh to look at those pictures. I wonder if anyone happened to notice us that day? I hope so, it was hysterical; maybe it made them smile.
There is so much drama in the world, and there seemed to be so much drama in the lives of the parents and teens I observed that I decided from that day that I would start smiling as I drive on the way to school and try to activate the same pleasantness in my heart at the same time. I’m lucky–we don’t have a lot of drama. Our days are pretty much always the same, but I don’t have to look bored because I’m not really. I actually find it quite amusing that my Down syndrome son can make the same joke at the same place in the same song on the same CD every day and still get such a kick out of himself. The world is new to him every morning, and though I may have heard the jokes before I can still enjoy the freshness he feels. After all, just because the sun comes up every morning doesn’t mean the sunrise isn’t worth watching . . .