We are certainly not perfect parents and do make lots of mistakes but the one thing I can say for certain we do right is push the boundaries on all fronts when it comes to including Reilly in normal every day stuff despite her severe limitations. Up until recently we have had great winter weather in that it hasn’t been very cold (- 4 degrees celsius max) nor have we had snow but the last couple of days it has gotten really chilly and we received our first official snowfall that has left snow actually on the ground. Although I am not a fan of the cold I would prefer there to be snow for it does open up a lot of options to make the winter go by more quickly, such as tobogganing, skiing, snow shoeing, etc,. So yesterday I promised London that we would either go sledding or skating outdoors and we ended up choosing skating. So after bundling up to withstand the -11 degree celsius weather we headed to the outdoor skating rink in our small little community.
With Reilly all bundled up in her stroller we hit the rink where she was thrilled to be part of our outing. Mike and I took turns pushing Reilly around although I honestly think she preferred for Mike to push for he could go far faster than me which is the thrill that I think Reilly truly enjoys. I am embarrassed to say that my 5-year-old daughter can now skate better than me but I must confess as a proud parent that she is not a normal 5-year-old, especially for a girl. London has been skating since she was 3 and has been playing in a hockey league for the last 2 seasons and is proving to be quite a natural on the ice. She gets that from her daddy, that is for sure.
Needless to say Reilly was the only child on the ice in a stroller but I was ecstatic to see a teenaged girl there learning to skate who had Down Syndrome. Kudos to her parents too! Of course we get a lot of stares from children and I honestly don’t know what is going on in their minds. I am sure it is a mix of curiosity, bewilderment, and confusion. Especially when they quickly learn that hear Reilly squawk and screech instead of hearing words. From the parents we either get smiles of encouragement or blank looks as if they can’t see us or don’t want to acknowledge us. Very strange but that is human nature. Every now and then I get bothered by this but yesterday I had a grin from ear to ear. One reason is that we were all out doing something that we enjoyed (well I am not a big skater but as a parent if your kids are having a great time, you fall in line). Another reason is that the stares for Reilly were equally balanced if not more with the number of comments other parents were making about London. Fathers and mothers alike were making comments to their children or each other on how good of a skater London was and you can even see some envy from a few of the fathers who were struggling with their sons. For in many parts of Canada, learning to skate and play hockey is as common as learning to tie your shoes and if your child, particularly your son, doesn’t catch on quickly or doesn’t enjoy it, it becomes a major disappointment. I personally had no interest in London playing hockey but her interest in the sport was so organic and natural that I would have been silly to deny such an exploration by her. In the end, London’s love for skating has created an opportunity for us all to get outside and enjoy it.