There's a cookie-cutter mold that expectant parents begin to build for their children, a mold that includes dates and times, expectations of success in all pursuits, educational and social alike. It may include preconceived notions of milestones hit, grades received, career choices selected. And, as good little unborn babies, we do not disappoint, fueling the acrobat/quarterback/violin-playing dreams with every kick or nudge of an elbow in mommy's ribs.
When we, ourselves, were born, we were given many of the tools necessary to meet those expectations, the books, extracurricular activities, enriching outings to museums or science-supply warehouses, musical instruments, lessons, you name it. And we never wanted to disappoint our parents.
Yet, we invariably do in one way or another, at some time or another.
When a child with a disability is born, a ghost of those expectations continues to linger for some time.
"What are your *expectations* for her first year?" the Early Intervention people asked on their first visit to our home to evaluate our 6 week old baby.
"Well, I *expect* she will be walking at 12 months," I responded with the honesty and naivety that only a frightened new mother, still feeling the strength of her baby's kicks, could muster.
After all, isn't that what babies do? At least that's what all the books say...
And, over time, those ghosts became replaced with the new reality, the one in which our expectation shifted to accomodate delays and the understanding that our child will do what she will, when she is ready.
Report cards? Pshaw! My childhood drive to receive only Outstandings and Exceeds Expectations and straight A's, a drive born of the knowledge that that's just what one does, no longer sits within me as a requirement for my own child. I know she works hard, I know she tries. I also know it's not realistic to have the same expectations. Are my expecations high for her? Absolutely. I expect that she will work hard, will try, will do the best that she can, and I expect that what she does will not be perfect, and I expect that she will make me proud, no matter what. Straight A's? I do not expect those. As a matter of fact, I'd be highly suspicious of her educational team if she did get that.
Samantha's report card came home last week. When I was a child, that was one of the most exciting events of the school year. I received money for each A. I loved to see how well I was doing at school. But to be honest, I have barely even skimmed Samantha's report yet. As a contributing and communicating member of her educational team, I know that there are no real surprises on it. Oh, don't get me wrong, I will be reading it, carefully, but we maintain such direct contact with her teacher and supports that we pretty much know what's there.
And our expectations of what is there are very different than the expectations we thought we'd have at this time, back when Samantha was a mere tadpole.
We see progress. That is what's important, not As, or Outstandings or Exceeds.
We expect this. We are proud.
(Note: This post was coincidentally similar to the discussion requested by Lisa at "Life as I Know It" this morning on her blog hop. I hope you'll hop over there and read what she and others have to say on this topic as well!)