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To My Son With Down Syndrome as We Go to Your Kindergarten Class

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As I walk through the kindergarten gates, I hook it under my foot and unlatch the lock one-handed as I’ve always done. And my mind says “Open-shut! Good boy!” because I’ll be saying it shortly.

We have so many small rituals, Parker.

On one of your first days of daycare, a mum walked her little boy in while chatting away brightly. “Help me open it. OK, now shut. Good boy!”

I was overwhelmed. I looked at her son, not much larger than mine, walking and talking. I felt you’d be this small forever. A babe in arms, Down syndrome affecting your size and growth.

I waited for your voice to come. Your gross motor, your laugh and your independence. I watched as you walked at 2 and a half. I still wait for your voice to come — but now I’m OK with waiting.

And now you’re 3.

I walk into your new kindergarten room. I watch you play outside with your friends. I stand on this side of the glass while you shout and bounce and pull a fairy dress over your head while slapping on a cowboy hat. You’re always the sharpest and most colourful dresser.

I complete our ritual — I approach you, you ignore me and flirt with the closest teacher. I pick you up. After a token struggle, you blow kisses to every teacher on the playground while waving furiously. I miss a teacher, you yell at me, we spin so you can blow the final kiss.

You wrap your arms around my neck and I collect my kisses. If you’ve had an extra spectacular day, I know to expect a nose rub too.

I watch you pack your name tag away in the basket, and try valiantly to find your socks so I don’t get cranky about another pair being eaten by lost and found.

You may not communicate often with words, but you are a cup I cannot come close to filling. Input and output are like giving and taking. They don’t always have to come out even. But sometimes, your cup will unexpectedly run over — and fill mine with joy.

With emotional intelligence beyond your years, you sometimes pre-empt my needs before I’m conscious of them. I get an extra hug today for putting your backpack on you.

We head to the exit. I open the gate with my foot, because I’m holding you on my hip. I’m distracted, because I’m thinking about your missing socks. I shut the gate.

You pat my cheek and swivel my face around. You always command nothing less than my undivided attention.

“Goo-boy,” you say to me.

Just once, because that’s my ritual. Our ritual. And you were always listening.

A version of this post was originally published on Parker Myles.

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Photo credit: Life Is Beautiful

Originally published: January 26, 2017
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