Friday, June 26, 2009

Smug


Growing up in the beautiful Park Hill neighborhood of Denver, I often felt and was viewed by neighbors as practically on orphan. At 6, my mother left me and my 3 siblings to pursue a life that did not include young, demanding children. I often came home to an empty house and all 4 of us young Gould's, more often than not, had to fend for ourselves between the hours of 3 and about 6:30 when my father returned from work. If it weren't for some amazing and watchful neighbors, I know that at least one of us would have gotten into some serious trouble.


When daddy Hal did come home, the day's punishments were doled out as he surmised the damage done on our ramshackle 5-bedroom home. Eventually, the wooden slats that made up the balcony porch were exhausted, either on our behinds or because we slid them into a hole that was created when a beam was removed in the space between the living and dining rooms. What was once a peaceful setting for reading Judy Blume eventually became a death-defying foray out of the back bedroom door.

But, then we (or most likely, I,) would go to the King Soopers' store with my dad. This was a welcome retreat as the store held 1: Food! 2: Time alone with my papa. My dad was and is an incredible cook. He learned to cook after my Mom left by studying books by James Beard and Julia Child. No ordinary slop would do for his children. Pizza ?- uh uh. Macaroni and cheese ? Hell to the Nah.

My father's journey through kid-friendly food was almost non existent. Instead we enjoyed meals that would make most modern-day parents balk. The food was both interesting and scary and while it was great to have a home-cooked meal every night (as in we almost never ate out), those meals often came at 9:00 p.m.- after hours of chopping, sauteing, carmelizing and waiting.

Some of my Dad's great recipes were: Green Chile (for which I can now admit to skimming from the crock pot from the time I got home from school until my dad returned from work - it was incredibly good), Chicken Cacciatore, Pasta Carbonara, Beef Stroganoff, these special eggs on toast, beef stew and cherry coffee-cake which would bake while he developed film in our basement darkroom . Really there were so many wonderful, delicious and incredibly time consuming dishes.


One of my dad's proudest moments which turned into one of his sourest (which surely makes for good stories later on) is the Great Salmon Aspic Debacle of '79. Aspic, in case you don't know is a food that is congealed in gelatin. This took days to make, preserve, set, whatever. My dad had us all sit at the table for the grand unveiling of this dish. We usually were pretty okay with what he made (despite my vegetarian leanings and my brother's vegetable-hating ways. So, he brings this dish to the table - a large 18" x 24" inch pan of indescribable gourmetness. As he mindfully cut fair-sized servings for each of his hungry children, we held our forks: ready but reluctant. I don't remember which of us started the lament on this particular dinner but it soon became a cacophony of anguish and complaint. Not a one of us could quite swallow this particular delicacy and I understand now that it was just "too good for children". Still, it upset my dad....

Anyway, back to the title of this blog post. I am a Mom to 5 children and sometimes I think I do a pretty good job of it. My kids know I love them and I can feel it in my gut when I need to spend more time with them or listen to them or comfort them. Not so, the little guy next door: one of Gabe's best friends. This little dude, whom I will call Isaac is a dear, intelligent boy who does not know what it means to have someone looking out for him at all times. His mother has a lot on her plate but she also leaves an awful lot up to chance. It is not unusual for Isaac to spend 8-9 hours a day at our house with nary an inquiry from Mom.

So, tonight, while Gabe and Isaac splashed and laughed in our little backyard pool, I talked to him about his life and he (at 6 years of age) confessed that his mom is gone alot and he doesn't understand why. Gabe mentioned that it's "a good thing he was us". Gabe is a very secure kid, sometimes extremely cocky, but with a soft-heart. He loves to welcome you into his world and surround you with his inclusivness (even if it is on his terms).

I know what it's like to be that child and I know that as that child you don't always know what is missing, or how to ask for what you want or what it felt like to be completly loved. Life is uncertain and you become accumstomed to that uncertainty. I don't do that to my kids and hope that I never will. Sometimes I resent the fact that I spend so much time with Isaac but on the other hand I know that it's important and not that more effort to have one more to feed, listen to or play with. I hope that someday he will return the favor to another child who may be slightly lost and alone.

As Isaac finally returns home and I finally get my own children into bed, I feel less smug and more relieved: both that we have made it through another day and that we showed others that we cared.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sometimes, it's confusing.

At times, having a child like Lauren - one with Down syndrome - is confusing. There is so much information 'out there' and I usually don't feel alone on this journey, but still, there is so much to consider, sort through and try to understand.

As with so many other things, there is such a wide range of developmental ability when it comes to a child with Down syndrome (or any child, for that matter). But, i'm asked on a regular basis questions to the effect of "how smart is she going to be"?

No one actually asks that but that is what they want to know - as if I know. I don't know how smart Lauren is going to be any more than I know how tall she is going to be, what her favorite song is going to be 6 months from now or whether she'll prefer flip-flops over closed-toe shoes.

I do kind of wish i knew though...I find myself torn between this feeling of believing that the more we work with her, the more therapy she receives, the more we challenge her, the more capable she will become and another train of thought that tells me that she is going to become who she is meant to be just by being with us.

I read about other kids with Ds who seem to be doing so well and I am both ecstatic and jealous. There are many people with Ds out there doing exciting and remarkable things and I could not be happier about that. Sometimes, Lauren is that child doing so well and other times she isn't. I know that she is not going to be the brightest child with Ds that there ever was, and I also know that she is not going to fail. I wish I could just be all right with whatever is to be..perhaps the fact that it is such an unknown is what confuses me.

What do I want for Lauren? I want her to know that she is accepted by her family and friends and that she does not have a bunch of limitations placed on her by others. I also want her to know that she is okay just the way she is: she doesn't have to have the biggest vocabularly or the fastest backstroke....she just has to be the best that she can be.

Tonight at Wendy's we met a father raising a teen with Ds and he told me "don't let others decide how well she will do". That's good advice...I hope I can follow it!

Gabe, Curtis and Dav

Future Drummer?

Future Drummer?

SWEET LAUREN