This I Believe

Carole - Austin, Texas
Entered on August 7, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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My Daughter is my Hero

I was ancient when I became a mother – 36 years and 8 months to be exact. While I didn’t have 9 months of anticipation, or hours laboring to give birth, I did have months of parenting classes and hours of home study, delving into the most private areas of my life. Oh, and fire and health inspectors and written references and even proof of my pets’ immunizations! But then on a warm May afternoon, there she was. Little Kara. Toddling up the front steps, hand-in-hand with a caseworker. I knew the moment I laid eyes on her that she was not just another foster child that I would rock to sleep and nurture and love before sending them on. I knew she was my child. I never expected that. I always assumed I would be a foster mother to these little ones seeking shelter until they were found a forever home.

It didn’t matter to me that she didn’t speak, or that if I placed her in a chair, 30 minutes later she would still be there, just sitting. Even with my degree in Elementary Education, hours of parenting classes, years of babysitting, and numerous weekends spent caring for my perfect little niece and nephew, it never dawned on me that this silent, still, stone-faced child was anything but perfect. God had made her for ME. Of course she was perfect!

One day, though, she did begin to talk. Out of the blue, lengthy sentences came pouring out, and I rejoiced! At last, someone to talk with me. And so life went on. Sure she didn’t start reading when she should have, and those pesky numbers…as she told me in first grade: “I don’t plan to do math”. Her intractability was just a sign of a strong will. She had no concept of time…”Mom, I grew an inch of hours last night!” from an 8 year old. She grew into a beautiful, tiny, impish little creature who laughed easily, danced beautifully, drew fanciful pictures and played cello. I knew she was brilliant. She was perfect. She was my daughter!

The teachers loved her. The public school psychologist said she was delightful, engaging, but not as smart as I thought. There was nothing wrong with her…she was just an “average student”. And average students make Cs. I needed to realize she was not really brilliant, even though she was wonderful…delightful…engaging. Oh, and ADHD; if I would just go to the doctor and have that confirmed the school could offer some modifications that might help, and of course the medication was important, too. And so I did.

But still, I knew she was brilliant, and I knew, finally, that something wasn’t quite right. I knew in my heart that she didn’t have ADHD, but no one wanted to listen to what a mother knows. And I still tear up when I remember the day we saw one of the few specialists in the state (or country for that matter) trained to identify what was different about Kara. And I cry sometimes when I explain her diagnosis – static encephalopathy – soft neurological damage due to her birth mother’s consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

It turns out my daughter is anything but average. It turns out my daughter has an I.Q. in the very superior range. But she will probably never tell time, and she will never be proficient with her own finances, and I don’t know what life holds for her.

But her strength, belief in herself, and conviction are steadfast. She puts herself to bed at 8:30 every night, exhausted from the day’s struggle. She works exponentially harder than every one else just to stay on grade level, and occasionally even make the A/B Honor Roll. When she scored commended performance on a state standardized reading test she said “Mom, are you sure they didn’t make a mistake?” Then we cried together.

She never complains about how hard she works. She is oblivious to how far she has come and the struggles that await her. She remains a beautiful, tiny, impish little creature who laughs easily. But most of all, this I believe, she is my hero.