The decision was made at the end of last week: Julianna will remain in public schools. I would like to say we made it, but the truth is that the Catholic school decided they simply couldn’t serve her. I was relieved, because for quite some time I’ve been moving toward the conclusion that she is where she should be, and I was dreading having to make the decision ourselves. Christian, however, was not so sanguine.
As much as anything I think our disappointment stems from the lack that the Catholic school kids suffer by not having her in their midst. Ugh, I sound like one of those insufferable moms who think their kid’s very existence enriches the universe around them, right? Well, I can only plead guilty, but I do have a reason.
I’ve said before how not-diverse my childhood was, and how difficult that made it for me to translate lessons of equality before God into action. My mom says I have a tendency toward “scrupulosity.” In this case, that means I’ve spent my entire life worrying about whether I’m treating people the same regardless of skin color–or, I discovered later, disability. Knowing something in theory is not the same as having the chance to put it into practice when the lessons are being formed. For this reason I say that kids need to be around my daughter at least as much as she needs to be around them. Other kids need that interaction.
Our local Catholic school isn’t quite as homogenous as the one I grew up in, but it’s close enough. And last fall, we had a rather disheartening experience at the cub scout family campout, which is entirely Catholic kids. Exhibit A: during Mass out on the lawn, Julianna was reciting prayers loudly and not clearly, as she always does. She got several of those “looks” from the kids. You know, the “you are so weird, what is wrong with you?” looks. Afterward, there were a few little girls running around hand in hand. They were so cute, and Julianna went running over to join them. They, too, gave her The Look and gave her the cold shoulder.
Understand that nothing like that has ever happened around the public school kids. The only explanation that makes any sense to me is exposure to diversity, or lack thereof.
I read something recently that said that although people with Down syndrome have a low intelligence quotient (Julianna’s IQ was measured at 60), they have an emotional quotient that’s much, much higher. That rings true; Julianna is enormously empathetic, sensitive to mood, and seems to be able to pick out the person in the room who most needs loving. As a society we are so focused on intelligence as the primary value, we’ve failed to recognize the contribution that a high emotional quotient has to offer.
Although Julianna is reading at “level 2.” Level 4 is considered end of kindergarten. Not too shabby, methinks.
Yesterday her school had a Mothers Tea. It was a concert followed by cookies and fruit punch. The kids were “warming up” with the music teacher when I arrived and sat down. I was just beyond the music teacher, and Julianna was so fixed on her, she didn’t see me at first. But when she did…well, those of you who have met Julianna know how she reacts to delight. Christian says her entire face expands to make room for the size of that smile. “BAH-EE!” she screamed, drowning out the other sixty kindergarteners. So stinking cute. They were doing songs about mothers, and every time they said the word “mom” during the performance, she pointed with her entire arm at me.
I will not, however, pretend that she’s an angel. She is not. There is way too much brother-torment and button-pushing and deliberate obtuseness in my girl to justify that label. But I’m shredding the idea of seven quick takes now, and I need to mow the lawn. Have a great weekend!