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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Baby-Toddler

Miles is a cutie, a flirt, a cuddly monkey. He is a people person, a social butterfly. When we take him out for a ride in his little red car, he waves at every person, dog, car and bicyclist we pass. He'll even wave at the plants because hey, they're living beings too right? His smile will turn any frown around, his hugs are divine, his kisses are sweet.....and slobbery. When he smiles, his eyes sparkle and everything around him seems brighter. I really think his smile makes people feel happy.

Miles is always engaging strangers when we go out. They wave, say hi, want to make him smile. It's a funny thing because I can't help but wonder if they are being super nice to him because he's the cutest thing in the universe, or because he has Down syndrome (or both). Not that it matters, but I wonder, you know? And then I wonder if maybe some people can't tell that he has Ds. I had a conversation with a man the other day as I was waited to go in for an audition. He told me he is a father of three and loves kids. He was playing with Miles, making him laugh and babble a ton. I told him that Miles was learning sign language and how we were finally able to communicate a bit more and he was surprised. He asked me if Miles was deaf and I said, "No, but he is delayed in his speech because he has Down syndrome and sign language has been a great way for us to start communicating." And he said to me that he didn't realize Miles had Ds.

Now I was a bit surprised. At this point I think it's obvious that Miles has Down syndrome. Especially to other parents or people who are around children. Am I wrong?
What the man said to me was that he could see from Miles' features that he looked like he has Ds, but he didn't think Miles had it because he was acting like a normal toddler. Hmmm.... that's always such an interesting conversation to have and one which I personally enjoy because I get to teach people a little bit about Ds. I've also been lucky that every stranger I've ever talked to has been open and understanding. And inquisitive. I like it when people ask me questions, that's the only way to learn, right?

What's more difficult for me are the random interactions with other moms who see me carrying Miles, his chunky legs and soft body and they ask, "How old is your baby?". And I respond, "A year and ten months".
"Oh", they often say, looking down as if embarrassed by my answer. "He's petite", I add hastily, as if I need to make an excuse for why he still looks like a baby.

The thing is that Miles is not a baby, but he's not quite a toddler yet either. He's kind of in between. Sometimes, when he's grappling onto me or holding his bottle or sitting in his stroller, he still looks like an 11 month old baby. A chunky, yummy, sweet little baby. Other times, when he's dressed in his jeans, and he's babbling and pointing at things or sitting in his little red car, he looks more like a toddler. And the reality is that he's a little of both. Miles is 22 months old, almost 2 years old! Developmentally he is between 10 and 18 months. He is delayed in most every aspect of his development, except for his social and emotional states, which are very darn close to his real age.

So you see, he's a little bit of both. And that's all right by me! I still have a sweet little baby who wants to cuddle and hug and kiss me all day. And I have a little boy who is slowly exerting his independence, learning to communicate and wanting to walk. I always hear my friends say that their children are growing up so fast. I can't say that's the case with Miles. His clothes last forever and each milestone takes quite a while. In fact, I'm always expecting him to make a huge jump forward before he's ready to do it. It's a practice in patience for me. He will do it, he'll get there, whatever it is.

I breathe and I remind myself how lucky I am! My friends aren't ready for their babies to grow up so fast and I get to enjoy the sweet baby I have!