Today is the day I officially become the mother of .......a teenager. (You thought I was going to say monster, didn't you? Go on. Admit it. You did!)
While my first born is currently going through the phase I do not fondly call "Teen 'tudes" (that's Teen With Attitude for those of you whose children are too young to go through this yet), for the most part he is a good kid all around. This term he pulled straight A's in school, say's "Yes, Ma'am" and "Yes, Sir" (a throwback to my paternal southern roots) and has never made me thoroughly ashamed of his behavior (although he has made me embarrassed a number of times).
There is one part of him that I am the most proud about. My youngest has Down syndrome. When she was first born, a friend of his came over and asked "What is Down syndrome?" I opened my mouth to give what I thought was then a good 3rd grade explanation when Dear Son #1 (hereafter referred to as DS#1) stood up and lectured. "Actually it is called Nondisjunction Trisomy 21. That means the 21st chromasome has 3 instead of 2. Doctors don't know why this happens. Its not Mom or Dad's fault. It means that a person with Down syndrome takes longer to learn things. But they can learn to do anything we do......." I was floored! DS#1 had been reading my textbooks. I had worried how this would affect my kids. DS#1 proved that they would be just fine.
Fast forward to a year later. We were at a BBQ with other families in our Down syndrome community. One of the families there (who had a new baby with DS) also had their oldest daughter who had Rhett syndrome. I don't know all of the terminology for that syndrome. This sweet girl (I'll call her Sweetgirl) was the same age as DS#1. She was in a wheel chair, couldn't talk or feed herself. Mentally and physically, she was a baby.
I was sitting by her grandma (who came for the express purpose of taking care of this girl so her parents could relax and meet other families). We were talking about this and that while watching all of my boys play volleyball with the men. The ball went wild, smacked Sweetgirl in the chest and landed in her lap. DS#1 ran up to us. He didn't look at the grandma or at me. He looked straight at Sweetgirl and said "Wow! Nice catch! Are you okay?" Sweetgirl laughed at him. DS#1 asked if she wanted to play, grandma said they would just watch, and DS#1 grabbed the ball and ran back to the game. Every few minutes he would wave at Sweetgirl and she followed him with her eyes for the rest of the evening. Her grandma turned to me with tears in her eyes. She had never seen anyone Sweetgirl's age react to her without cringing. Most kids her age were intimidated by the wheelchair, the drooling, or the baby noises Sweetgirl made. This was the first time she had witnessed her granddaughter's acceptance by a peer. And her granddaughter loved it.
Now my DS#1 is a teen. I have been told horror stories by parents in the neighborhood, their stories based on their own experiences. But I know something they don't. DS#1 is planning his Eagle Scout project to benefit our local Down syndrome community. He has tutored kids with ADHD in his first year of middle school. He wants to learn ASL as soon as he can.
We're still dealing with the brotherly fighting. DS#1 doesn't clean the kitchen (or bathroom or his bedroom) to my standards yet. He has a few other faults. But they are few - we can deal with the Teen 'tudes. Happy birthday, my firstborn. You're a keeper.