The title of this post is kind of cliche. The word "joy" may be a bit over-used in the Down syndrome community when referring to our kids, but there's really no way around it. Joy: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.
That's how she makes me feel.
And, lately, it seems she's had some sort of cognitive and developmental growth spurt, maturing rapidly, evidenced by new powers of observation, speech and language, and behavior. Doing new things, holding cohesive conversations, reasoning...all so easy now. Transitioning, something that had been the bane of my existence just a few years ago, is now a non-issue. She shows me, more and more, the person she's becoming, the person she'll ultimately be, and I love it even more than I'd originally ever thought I would. The young woman who will stand by my side, traveling, exploring, enjoying life and the world around us, is taking shape, cohesively forming before my eyes.
On Sunday we went to visit a local woman and her gorgeous baby boy, who has Down syndrome. To say Samantha was an angel is a gross understatement. The beautific smile on her face at holding the baby, the care with which she held him, touched him, the sweetness with which she looked at him, made. my. heart. melt. She loved every minute of the hour-long visit, beautiful, sweet, patient, a perfect little ambassador to a new mom to the fold, practicing her self-advocacy with the adeptness of a pro. My heart sang.
Yesterday morning, at the crack of dawn, I took Samantha with me to vote, as she was off school, and Steve was working. I expressed to her ahead of time the importance of what I needed to do, explained that we would likely have to wait in line for a while, that she needed to be patient. I let her bring two books, and told her I'd have my cell phone if she wanted to look at the pictures and videos stored on it.
The polling location was at her school, directly behind our house. The line was long.
The books and cell phone never left my satchel.
She was awesome.
And, in true Samantha style, she made friends with everyone around us, chatting up a storm, being silly (I had to explain to my fellow line-mates that contrary to appearances, I did not give my child coffee before we left the house), reading every sign posted on the walls in the hallway, finding one of her own class projects displayed on a board, and drawing grins and laughter from others waiting in line nearby. "I can tell she's been reading for a long time," the woman behind me said as Samantha read the bathroom rules on the wall outside the girls' room. I don't think the people around us saw Down syndrome. I sure wasn't thinking about it. And if that's what they did see first and foremost, I think minds were changed, preconceived notions and stereotypes removed. I do think they saw a precocious 6-year old who loves her mother, who loves her life, who is smart, polite and funny.
Because that's what she is.
And that's what I love, what equates to pure joy.