Sometimes my Down syndrome son is not where he’s supposed to be but the story of missing him can end with a smile. In the process of writing last month about losing track of one’s child and the horror of “whereabouts unknown”, additional life stories of ours also came to mind. These stories have to do with learning about my son’s thinking, appreciating its literalness, and perhaps even how he outsmarts us all.
At 21 my son is physically too big now to lose track of for the most part. And thankfully, he doesn’t dash off into thin air at random the way he used to. These days if he goes it’s because he’s got another plan.
For example: One morning I got a text from his teacher. They were on a field trip to the local shopping mall doing a scavenger hunt. While the group was gathered around a kiosk map to determine which was their next stop, Joey had disappeared.
The teacher was asking if I knew where he might have chosen to go. A flurry of texts ensued and persons sent here and there at my suggestion looking for him, until the teacher sent back that they’d arrived at their next stop and Joey was there waiting for them.
Oh, I should have known! That should have been my first guess. He’s always thinking. He’d figured out the answer and went on his way. I’m sure if he could understand everyone’s concern he would have been incredulous, thinking: “Isn’t this where I was supposed to go?” Well, yes, in fact, it was. Because he doesn’t talk to them, the teachers can’t really be expected to recognize that he regularly thinks one step ahead . . . but I should have. I had to smile. He is a clever boy. We often don’t give him credit for all he can do.
Another turn at being smarter than I am exhibited itself yesterday when we visited a big-box store. I stood him in a certain spot where I could see him and told him to stay right there by the shopping basket while I got in line to get a drink a distance away. He did stand there quite a while but then I noticed him slowly pushing the basket forward. He passed two or three aisles, pausing and looking down each one.
At the fourth aisle, he turned in and I saw him put a giant box of fruit snacks into the basket. Now, as if on rewind, he inched his way – yes, walking backwards – past aisle 3, aisle 2, aisle 1, and finally backing into the very spot where he had started. Bless his heart, he had stayed right by the basket as requested and still accomplished his clandestine mission. This time I laughed out loud. And bought the fruit snacks.
I’m so proud of him for being who he is. And for outwitting me from time to time. There are many more such stories, all of which don’t need to be reported here at my expense . . . but when it does happen, I will hear one of these typical phrases “Silly Mom!” or “Oh Mom, you [em]’barrassing me”. The great smile that comes with them lets me know that he comprehends the way I usually think too. And that he still loves me even though I am different.
That might be the best thing we’ve got going for us as we try to live with and understand each other. Maybe my unique ways are just as enchanting to him as his are to me.