A Break from Explaining

Spring is full in bloom in my corner of the country. The best part? School’s out this week.

I know some parents don’t see it that way. Parents are supposed to hate spring break. What does one do with antsy school-age kids who are suddenly off-schedule?

For me, however, spring break is truly a break—from having to explain to grocery-store clerks and librarians why my 8-year-old daughter is out with me in the middle of the day. (The answer? I homeschool her.)

People don’t know quite what to make of us. I had similarly awkward encounters when my other daughter was a baby, and I’d push her stroller around Manhattan.

Grandmas and general busybodies would stop me on the street, offer congratulations, and say, “New mommy! You must be so tired.” Then, they’d peer into the stroller and see my baby’s face. She has Down syndrome.

A few walked away, eyes down. Some smiled and said, pityingly, “God bless.” Still others pressed me with furrowed brows, “Did you know before she was born?” When I said that I did, they’d get a faraway look of bewilderment before walking away.

But every so often someone’s face would light up at the sight of my girl. They had a sister or an uncle with Down syndrome. They worked with people with special needs. They were happy to share in my good fortune.

So when will I give up trying to explain homeschooling to people who’ve already made up their minds about it? When I say family life is better, my daughter is healthier, she has more friends than before, and we are on track in all subjects, I don’t think I’m changing any minds.

Just as it’s no good explaining that Down syndrome is our gift, our good fortune.

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