She giggles as she steps out from the corner, newly able to make her way quietly on tip-toe up to her Dad who stands at the Keurig making a morning dose of energy. She looks back at me crouched in the hall urging her forward. I reach my hands out miming a tickle and she covers her smile with her small hand before rounding the wooden kitchen table at top speed and colliding into his knees.
“BOOO!” she shouts and he mocks a big startle as she collapses in a fit of laughter at his feet.
Ever since she was little she’s been locking eyes with the joke that is to be had. From pretending to drink the tubby water from the small plastic rainbow of dolphin she herds each evening, to reaching slyly into the therapists bag to remove the game she hopes to hide from them before they look for it, to bird-perching her bottom lip out when she catches the sympathetic eye of the daycare worker before running through the sand out of reach from them.
She gets it. She really does. I forget that and I know her. I underestimate her ability to understand what goes on around her and truly and meaningfully be a part of it 100 times a day if I do it once. That’s what happens when people tell you who your child will be before you’ve even had the opportunity to get to know them. She amazes me and her family and her friends and her therapists and her teachers regularly these days by how much she knows that we haven’t already explained to her. This thing called Down syndrome- it isn’t what the experts thought and have tried to explain. It isn’t what I expected. It isn’t what holds her back.
My understanding of it, the understanding of all of us around her- this is what holds her back. Our expectations. Our lack of understanding, our preconceived notions and our prejudices.
Fortunately, from her perspective, that’s ok- she’ll let us try again.
Later that evening as we are sitting down at the kitchen table to dinner, her dad reaches behind him to turn on Pandora and her giggle rises up quietly at first. “Daddy- Look!” she points to a far point in the corner of the room. He grins as she starts up the game he has taught each of our girls, and dutifully turns his head away from her small body to the direction she is pointing while imperceptibly leaning his cheek a little closer to her. She throws her arms around his neck and smooches his cheek loudly while he startles again. She sits back satisfied. “Heyyyy- you tricked me!!!” he cheerfully bellows as we all crack up.
She tricked him.
He didn’t see it coming.
None of us did.