One of the things I find truly interesting about us humans is our ability to hold two opposite, conflicting ideas in our heads (or hearts) and believe in each one fervently. In the extreme sense... as in leaders who spout moral codes, but behave quite differently behind closed doors. Or those who are against reproductive choice because they believe in the sanctity of life, but support the death penalty with equal passion. How you can be sooooo mad at someone, but still love them truly, madly, deeply. Or even something benign like knowing that something is not good for us, but choosing it anyways... hello chocolate brownie #3. Somehow, despite the obvious contradictions, this strange kind of balance finds its way into being. The psychology behind it all, the human-ness of the contradictions, that is what I find endlessly fascinating. That we are not black & white creatures... we live more often in the in-between, nebulous, gray areas. Sometimes being governed by the exceptions to our rules, more than the rules themselves.
This oppositional balance became extremely clear in our early days with Quinn. Holding in our hearts simultaneously the intense joy at having a healthy, happy baby boy, and the deep crushing pain that life would be very different than expected. We learned pretty quickly that the two things are not mutually exclusive. That carrying around two seemingly opposite wells of emotions is an entirely human thing. For us, the pain slowly ebbed & the joy quickly flowed, but that well is still there, not yet completely dry. Even now we occasionally have these moments, these DS moments, that take us by surprise. Surprise because, in the course of daily life, I usually forget about Down Syndrome. The routine of raising kids makes it pretty inconsequential most of the time.
Lately this conflict has been stirred up for me as we prepare to have Quinn's next IEP meeting for school. The big meeting where we talk about him moving on to Kindergarten & what that might look like. We are pushing for full inclusion with an aide, but have concerns about him being ready for such a big challenge. In my heart I know he can do it, but worry about the reality of an ailing education system that might not be able to provide all the supports he needs to help him be successful. On top of the school stuff, was the milestone of moving the boys to twin beds. Packing up all things baby... the crib sheets & blankets that have been in use since we first brought these bald little creatures home from the hospital... it has all left me a bit conflicted about my babies growing up. About how different the two boys are. About whether we will be adding to our family, or accepting that this is it for babies. Feeling like my emotions are floating close to the surface, raw & vulnerable, snagging easily like a hangnail.
I love my sons with every fiber of my being, even the extra bits, sometimes especially the extra bits. But every once in awhile my heart aches for Quinn and I get so mad at Down Syndrome. I want him to be able to have a "real" conversation with us about the joys of play-doh like his brother. I want him to be able to tell us what he wants without having to guess or to interpret his "nah-nahn", or to go through every sign we know like a goofy game of charades. I want to know what he thinks and feels, because the kid clearly has strong opinions about things. Sometimes I ache for how the world sees him, how people often stare at him, and for how he might be treated as an adult. And that's when I have to stop, and breathe, and think about how very grateful I am that Quinn was born now. In a time when there are increasingly fewer people left who feel he should be sent to a separate classroom, let alone sent away to an institution.
Love & hate, joy & ache, ebb & flow... all part of that elusive universal quest for balance I suppose. Holding two opposing things in parity keeping us human, a reminder to pay attention to our own truths.
Help us, Kenny Chesney
5 days ago