Jack Jack and I have two things each week that we never miss — Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs) and Community Bible Study (CBS). This being a small town, it is no surprise that one of the ladies that regularly takes care of Jack Jack in MOPs is also in my small group at CBS. She has been particularly delighted with Jack Jack, even moving up with him to the next age level in MOPs, learning some sign language and telling everyone at CBS what a wonderful little guy he is.
We were chatting about him this week, about why he wasn’t with me because he had some sort of eye goopiness going on and just wasn’t feeling well. Then she said, “I think it’s just a miracle how well he is doing, how much he’s improved over the last couple of years.”
I started to agree and just move on with the conversation, but I thought, no, this lady really loves Jack Jack and we should think a little more deeply about this. Is it a miracle that he’s doing so well? No, it isn’t.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I strongly believe in miracles — both what is told in the Bible and in seeing God divinely work on our behalf in our lives now. We were in a church building, surely a good place to think about miracles. And I believe that each of my children are miracles, the way every child born is.
But what this dear lady was talking about was the fact that Jack Jack was bright and funny, had adjusted well to being in a class of peers (instead of staying with the twos and threes, a more developmentally appropriate age group), worked hard to keep up with them and was talking and signing so much. That he didn’t fit her perception of what people with Down syndrome are like.
“No,” I said, “it isn’t a miracle. You know, it wasn’t very long ago that kids with Down syndrome were put in institutions, or segregated class rooms. Nothing much was expected from them. No early intervention, no encouragement to do speech therapy and a lot of discouragement for moms to bring them out to places like MOPs or CBS. In conditions like that, no child is going to do well.”
I have a book on teaching children with Down syndrome to read. It was published in 1994, the year I graduated from high school (in other words, not long ago at all!). In the introduction, the author talks about how revolutionary the idea of teaching someone with Down syndrome to read had been. How it was conventional wisdom to NOT teach reading, as it would just frustrate everyone involved! This is in the mid-90s. Things have come along way in a short amount of time.
I could see her considering my words. She had looked startled, but was now nodding along. “So really,” she said, “what I love about Jack Jack is his tenacity. The way he tries everything and does it with his whole heart.” Tenacity. Yes, that is a perfect word to describe why Jack Jack is doing so well. He puts in the hard work, every day, and has people around him who expect great things from him and don’t let him off the hook because of Down syndrome.
Miracles abound in our life as we follow Jesus. But expecting my child to live up to his full potential and getting him the help he needs to achieve that — that’s just everyday parenting.