This is kind of a funny, sad, and sweet story all at the same time, that I want to share about my daughter Ayelen. As you may know, my daughter has Down syndrome. Even though not all children with Down syndrome face weight gain challenges, she does, and for that, she has very healthy eating habits that include mostly organic, sugar-free, and plant-based foods. Don’t worry, she doesn’t suffer at all. She loves her food choices and she is very conscious of it, 99% of the time.
However, this past Mother’s Day, I just assumed that not buying a Publix cake to decorate was going to be fine with her. I didn’t do it last year, so I went ahead and threw the form in the trashcan. “Not a big deal,” I thought.
I had to travel for work on Friday and came back on Mother’s Day to spend the day with my two children. As soon as I opened the door, she hurried to bring her presents and gave me a handmade card and a couple of plastic flowers. She said, “Happy Mother’s Day! This is for you. These flowers were so hard to get.” “Uhm, hard to get? What do you mean, Yaya?” I replied. “It wasn’t easy,” she said and left. I completely forgot about it and thought she was probably using her imagination to create a story about her search for my flowers.
The next morning, her teacher called me to talk about Ayelen and what had happened that past Friday. Well, according to her teacher, when it was time to leave the class, Ayelen saw other children bringing Mother’s Day cakes for their moms, and she completely freaked out. She kept telling the teacher that she couldn’t go home without a present and that I was expecting a cake to celebrate on Sunday. No one knew what to do, so all together, the teachers decided to collect the flowers they had received from their own students throughout the day and put them together for Ayelen to bring home to help her forget about the cake.
“She wasn’t convinced but she finally took them and climbed onto her school bus,” the teacher told me. In that moment I remembered what she had told me before, “It was hard to get these flowers for you,” and I felt bad for missing her point.
I also felt proud to hear what an amazing advocate she is for herself and her family, and I felt blessed to learn of what the teachers had done to give her something special and help her calm down in the most appropriate and compassionate way. In the end, all that she wanted was to make me happy. I laughed as well because now that all the pieces were put together for me, I was able to understand her frustration when she said that those flowers were hard to get.
“My sweet Ayelen, I have dedicated my whole life to advocating for you, baby girl. And still loving you as much as I love you, I tend to make these dumb mistakes and put you in such a disadvantaged position. Believe me, I felt like the most horrible mother in the world to have put you in such a position, but at the same time, I know you were advocating for love. Thank you for that!“
With those words, I waited for her on Monday afternoon. I apologized and I told her how proud I am of her, and how much I love her. I also reminded her that things don’t always go the way we expect and it’s okay to negotiate, which she did well, even though, she always needs to listen, to remain respectful, and to trust her teachers. She gave me a hug and a kiss, and along with that, the best Mother’s Day present ever. She is my best advocate.