Summer has finally arrived in Canada!
My kiddos are loving the backyard this summer. They spend hours running through the “elephant” sprinkler, playing in their backyard playhouse, and soaking each other in the water table. Jake, of all three of them, is particularly taken with the water table. He can typically be found either standing in front of it, dunking his head under the water and then laughing maniacally, or sitting in the table itself, soaking himself to the core and having the time of his life! It is not unusual for all three of them to be playing at the table together, throwing water on themselves and each other and shrieking with glee.
The other night we had some friends over, and Jake, in typical Jake fashion, was playing at the water table. He had gotten creative however, and decided that dumping a load of dirt in the water and stirring it around was a great idea. What he was left with was more of a muddy mess than a pristine water table. Details like that don’t seem to bother him though, and so he stood there playing happily, oblivious to the dirt and grime.
Enter our adorable little friend. He wanted in on the action, so he waddled over and stood beside Jake at the water table, eyes wide open taking in the scene before him. I don’t know exactly what he was thinking, but I’m sure it had some sort of resemblance to a kid in a candy shop.
Water = Good.
Mud = Good.
Playing with friends = Good.
Until Jake dumped a bucket of water on him. All. Over. His. Face.
To his credit, this cutie pie didn’t utter a cry! He took it in stride (I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a great big brother some day!!) and after the initial shock to the system given by that cold, muddy water, he was back on track and ready for fun. His parents cleaned him up, we changed his clothes, apologized profusely, and all was right with the world again.
Except, for me, it wasn’t.
I felt overly embarrassed.
I felt ashamed of Jake’s behavior.
I felt the battle, the conflict, the war that wages in my mind whenever Jake has some sort of misdemeanor.
On the one hand, I am defensive for Jake. I want to jump in and defend him. I want to explain his actions so that people understand him. In this instance, it was not that he was a malicious little boy who likes to be mean and dump water on people’s heads, but that he was simply a little boy who loves playing in water with his friends, and didn’t have any impulse control to stop and think about the possible consequences of his actions.
On the other hand, I crave equality. I strive to treat my child with Down syndrome the same way I treat my other children. I make them apologize, give them a consequence for their actions, and explain to them why we do not act that way.
On a third hand, I recognize that Jake is a four year old. I have watched four year old children, and they are not always nice. Down syndrome or typical, Jake is a toddler, he is learning about the world around him, and he is attempting to understand, as far as he can, how to work within it. I also recognize that while Jake is chronologically four years old, developmentally he is much younger.
On a fourth hand, I feel protective. I never want to put Jake in situations where he might do something wrong. I have this desire for Jake to only show his cute, perfect, well-behaved, good-mannered, social, humorous, winning sides to people, so that they can see past Down syndrome and see my child. My beloved.
I left the encounter feeling disappointed and discouraged. It wasn’t until later on that evening that I realized what the problem was.
The problem was not Jake. He was simply being a kid who pushed the boundaries, and dealt with the consequences.
The problem was not the parents. They, while most likely being slightly annoyed, were also very gracious and thought nothing of it.
The problem was me.
I guess I have some work to do…