I spend two hours at the girls’ gym every Thursday night. I know there are other moms out there (Julie, I’m looking at you) who are probably thinking, “Pshaw! Two hours are nothing, talk to me when you’re there four hours a night for four nights a week.”
Anyway, I’m there for two hours each Thursday, watching them practice the skills they know and learn new skills.
O’s class is full of five and six year old girls. While Olivia will be seven in November, she fits into this class really well. She’s a little taller than the other girls in the class but not so much that it’s really all that noticeable.
I stand at the window with all the other parents, waving when Olivia looks up to make sure I’m watching. I stand there and I look for the 5p-. I watch her somersault and walk the beam and dangle from the bar and I realize…she’s pretty much right there on par with the other five and six year olds in the class.
Sure, she’s a little less sure on the beam but I think that’s mostly because of a lack of confidence rather than a lack of ability. She’s much quieter than the other girls but that’s thanks to the selective mutism (or, maybe, just maybe severe shyness that she very likely got from her dear mother) more than the 5p- syndrome. See, I know that verbal ability is very much affected in kids with Cri du Chat but Olivia is spectacularly verbal at home and like any other shy kid, can and will talk when she wants but just stands there and smiles when she doesn’t want to talk.
It surprises me when I realize that all the other parents watching all the little girls just see seven little girls tumbling and playing and laughing together. They don’t see six typical girls and my special girl. They see these girls and have no idea how far my O has come. They don’t know that she didn’t walk until she was almost two and a half years old. They have no idea that she didn’t crawl until she was seventeen months old. The just see a tallish little girl with blond pigtails running around with her peers.
They have no idea she’s missing part of a chromosome. And even if they did, I feel incredibly lucky that they probably wouldn’t care. They see these beautiful girls, the sweet little kindergarteners and first graders and they, like me, enjoy watching their own kids learning, growing, being social (even without words, O socializes with her gymnastics classmates) and doing something that is fun for them.
For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel the need to tell Olivia’s story to strangers in a waiting room. I don’t feel like I need to explain why she needs a little extra help on the beam because that extra help is so very little that the other parents don’t even notice.
And I’m so, so grateful for that.