Tuesday, November 3, 2015

So Normal

Last Friday Olivia’s class had a Halloween Party. It’s one of three times in the school year when parents are invited to the school to spend the afternoon with their kids.

I worked the snack table, handing out cookies for the kids to decorate and spooning frosting onto their plates.

Another mom (let’s call her Lara) joined me and helped hand out juice boxes and pretzel packs. The kids were divided into four groups of four, so we had nice small groups coming to our table every fifteen minutes or so.

Olivia’s group was the last one to make it to the snack table. While they were there, her teacher, Mrs. P came up and whispered something in O’s ear. Liv smiled and nodded. Mrs. P asked me if Olivia had thanked me. I smiled and said she had.

“That was our only goal for today,” Mrs. P said with a smile.

As Mrs. P walked away, the mom working next to me asked what that was all about.

I told her that we were working on getting O to talk while at school.

“She doesn’t talk?” Lara asked.

“Oh, she’s perfectly capable of talking,” I laughed. “She talks constantly at home but here at school, it’s more of a challenge.”

Lara replied, “I wish I’d thought of that when I was in school.”

“Well,” I said, attempting a quick education on the complexity that is Olivia. “Her not talking isn’t really a conscious choice on her part. We’re working hard to get her to talk here. She sees the speech therapist, and since she does have 5p- syndrome, a lot of her challenges are just part of her biology.”

Lara looked over at Olivia, who was happily smearing orange frosting on a sugar cookie. “She looks so normal. She’ll probably outgrow it, right?”

I wasn’t sure what she was suggesting Olivia would outgrow but replied, “We’re hoping she’ll out grow the not talking thing. That’s why we work so hard with her but since her syndrome is chromosomal, it’s kind of something she’ll have to deal with her entire life.”

Lara shook her head. “But she looks so normal. She’ll probably outgrow the syndrome thing.”

At that point, I gave up trying to educate Lara. She didn’t get it. And why should she? She’s probably never heard of Cri du Chat or 5p- Syndrome. She has no reason to understand it.

She looks at Olivia, she sees a cute little girl with a mischievous smile and pretty hair. She sees ‘normal.’

And sometimes, I’m okay with that. I don’t need to educate the whole world. I don’t even need to educate every single one of Olivia’s classmates’ moms. I decided in that moment to let that mom hold on to her ignorance, her belief that O would outgrow her chromosomal disorder. It wasn’t worth taking time from the awesome kids at the party to explain that a person’s chromosomes just don’t change as they grow. They are the same at 90 as they were at conception.

For that moment, I let Liv be a ‘normal’ kid who was a little quirky. And honestly? It felt good to just let it go at that moment. Just call me Elsa.

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