Julianna has a pair of pajamas covered with strawberries. It says, “Being cute gets me out of jams.”
I bought it for her, partly because we love strawberries and it’s a darned sight better than Disney Princess pajamas. (Or Dora, or Tink, or any other licensed character. I can’t tell you how much I loathe licensed character stuff…at least, for girls. Not the superhero boy stuff, just the girls’ stuff. Yes, it’s irrational.) But there was another reason. As soon as I saw that pajama set, I said, “Holy cow. That’s Julianna. Right there, in a nutshell.”
She’s entering a tricky stage—one I expect to last, uh, the rest of her life, based on what I hear about people with Down syndrome. Most kids grow in understanding of appropriate behavior parallel to their increasing communication skills (both receptive and expressive). But Miss Munchy has an uncanny knack for reading people. She can pounce on a moment of weakness like no other child I know. She is selectively deaf to her name, and she’s learned that if she answers the question “Do you understand?” with a poker face, she might very well get away with doing what she’s been told not to do—because after all, the grownups will never know for sure that she’s actually disobeying. She knows they’ll question whether she actually gets it.
She knows how to work the system, my girl, and she’d be on a fast track toward “intolerable” if not for the fact that she’s so stinking cute.
With small children, it’s hard to figure out how much of what transpires is actually processing in their mysterious little brains. Sometimes you can see the processing going on, but you never know what conclusions they’re going to draw. This is one of the (many) reasons I’m a baby mommy and an older child mommy, but not so much a toddler mommy. I find it incredibly intimidating to guide them through this critical developmental time when I’m essentially walking blind in the dark. And with Julianna, this stage—like all others—is a long one.
Even so, I’ll take her as she is. The more time passes, the more I realize how perfectly suited this particular little girl is to be my daughter. Independent-minded, enjoying time alone, a budding bookworm who doesn’t demand that I have tea parties with her (shudder), a dusky laugh and the goofy sense of humor that makes bedtime so much fun (even if brushing teeth is not)…God gives each of us the children we need, but He outdid Himself with this one.