The Elephant In The Pool

The Elephant In The Pool

My husband and I and our four kids went to the pool on Saturday. I love going to the pool with the kids. They use Lance and me as jungle gyms. It helps me to confront my hatred of being touched. You know, because I’m ALL about confronting things I hate. But walking around anywhere for us is like walking around with two elephants in tow. Everyone sees them, but no one really wants to talk about them.

Casey is the least amount autistic at the pool. Sure, he’s still got all of his charms and fixations, but all of the tough parts about autism seem to drown in the pool while we’re there. He makes friends. Sort of. It’s awkward as hell, but he’s happy there. And he’s trying. The elephant that follows him around is much smaller, barely noticeable, when he’s at the pool.

Going anywhere with Abby is different. This time in the kiddie pool I found myself angry at the gigantic elephant that I’m forced to confront everywhere I go. It’s not that I mind talking about it. Not at all. But this time at the pool, for the first time, really, I just wished I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to smile and say, “yes, she has Down syndrome.” Or to the two year old who could carry on a full conversation: “My baby is your age! Why doesn’t she walk or talk? Because she has Down syndrome, she will soon…”

I wished for a minute that Abby could just be Abby. That she could run and splash with the other girls her age. That there wasn’t that second sideways glance by all the parents who see her when we walk in. There wasn’t an awkwardness in the people trying, as nicely as possible, to be friendly and accepting. I wish we could just have a conversation about how bratty our two year old girls are, without people rolling their eyes at me…because, you know, 2 year olds with Down syndrome can’t be bratty.

People are really great to us where ever we go. Abby’s a rockstar. There just are days where I wish we could be any other family walking through the grocery store or hanging out at the pool. Where we didn’t always have an elephant or two in tow. Where we don’t get noticed because Casey can’t control the volume of his voice or because my daughter has almond shaped eyes. Where people would stereo type us based on my poor parenting or hygiene skills, and not because my kids have special needs. So much is assumed when I tell someone that Casey has autism or that Abby has Down syndrome. I’m sick of explaining that they have their own personalities. Casey is affectionate. Abby can be a total brat.

I feel like with every post about Down syndrome I’m supposed to end it on a positive note. That I have to for whatever reason say, “But it’s such a blessing!” That it’s expected of us in the Down syndrome community to always be positive about our situations. Yes. It is a blessing. Any kid is a blessing. But there are more than enough days I’m not completely positive about my regular kids, so I reserve the right to be able to end this post the way it began.

I’m bored of the elephant at the pool.

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