November 1, 2009
My other kids do not trick or treat anymore - they just trick - me. Alex however, still loves Halloween and despite the fact we will not let her trick or treat, she loves this holiday. She has figured out how to hide and hoard candy, but I am on to her this year.
Alex has always loved Halloween, especially dressing up and becoming someone else. Her costume of choice for the last three years has been Superman and she will not even entertain the thought of a different costume, this has made it a bit easier and economical for me. I am sure there is a deep, dark hidden rationale behind Alex's desire to be a super hero - but for today, I will let this theory stay hidden.
This year we were invited to two Halloween parties, one with Alex’s Special Olympics buddies and one with some family friends. The first party with her SO friends was two weeks ago. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I had a conflict and John was in charge of the hour long drive each way. It was well worth the drive.
Alex had a blast at this party. I know this, as she called me when she was in the car on the way home, and told me she had so much fun she “almost peed in her pants”. This is probably one of the funniest things Alex has said in a long time, and I almost peed in my pants. I go back to my research that indicates that older kids, as well as adults, with special needs are more comfortable with people like themselves. I have said before, I believe in inclusion, I believe our kids benefit from friendships and relationships with “normal” kids, but I also believe that Alex has more confidence and fun when she is with her Special Olympics friends than she does with the kids at the High School.
It is interesting to compare this party to the one we attended on Halloween night. This was more of a family party and did not include any families with children with special needs. Before we went Alex refused to wear her costume,which I thought was odd. I am not sure why – but my feeling is she was uncomfortable.
When we got to the party she hung out with me and did not try to play with the other kids. She is friendly with the daughter of the house, a very awesome eight year old named Julia. Alex gets along well with younger girls, and younger girls think it is cool that a teenager wants to play with them. This is a great arrangement for us – and it provides play dates and sleepovers for Alex – that otherwise do not happen with her peers in high school. However, last night it took Julia's active coaxing to get Alex to join her in the party games.
I am not sure where I am going with this – but it has caused me to think, rethink or even over think situations where Alex shines and situations where she wilts. I do always want her to feel confident, included and welcome – but this is very hard to accomplish. Our dilemma, or perhaps our responsibility, as parents of a child with down syndrome, is to recognize that deep down in our hearts we know that Alex must learn to fend for herself, advocate for herself and find the strength to succeed in any situation. We must prepare her for a world after us.
I have my work cut-out for me, but I would not trade my super hero for all the super heroes in the universe.