Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What Age 13 Is Like for My Daughter with Down Syndrome

It seems like a few years ago, I was cuddling my small baby in her Noah's Ark themed nursery. It doesn't seem like this baby recently blew out candles on her chocolate cake in celebration of her 13th birthday.

When I held Jaycee in my arms years ago, I often tried to picture what her future would be like. I had many concerns and fears back. Now, I'm living that future. There is plenty of fun and personality in our lives, and fear and concern left years ago.

In true teenage fashion, my daughter has taken an interest in all things feminine. A few makeup supplies can into our house at Christmas. In a short amount of time, she has accumulated 5 tubes of lip stick, 4 eye shadow palates, powder, and blush. We had to carve out makeup application time in our morning routine. I don't wear makeup, so Jaycee has developed this interest on her own.

Similarly, Jaycee has decided she needs her nails painted and looking pretty at all times. She owns dozens of nail polishes and enjoys experimenting with different colors.

Jewelry is another interest of Jaycee's. A few months ago, she cried for a ring while we were shopping in Zales. Before we decided to spend hundreds of dollars on a ring, my husband and I purchased a cheap ring to test her responsibility with it. Jaycee has taken superb care of her now 3 rings and several bracelets. The more bling, the better!

Jaycee likes to carry a purse. She has a compact mirror and lip gloss inside of it. She has a wallet with her own money. Inside her purse, you may also find Peppa Pig or Frozen figures. 

When it comes to fashion, Jaycee loves to shop and pick out her own clothes. This is the child who hated shopping for many years much to my frustration. Now, I can't try on clothes without making sure I have something for her to try on as well. She wears mature looking sweaters that I would love to borrow, but she also has shirts with her favorite Disney characters as well. For the most part, I help her choose her outfits for school, since she doesn't yet understand the importance of dressing for weather conditions.

Like any other teen, Jaycee is interested in the phone. While many teens may be calling their friends, Jaycee will ask to call her cousin Gabby or grandma. Due to her limited verbal speech, Facetime is her primary way of communicating. She can sign or gesture to her family members on the phone on Facetime, and they can understand her much better. Texting or social media isn't an option since reading and spelling are both hard for her.

What about boys? Relationships are typically an interest of teenagers, but I can't tell if this is true for Jaycee. She loves everyone. She wants to innocently kiss and hug girls and boys that she likes. Friends and family members are all recipients of her acts of love. I don't see her interested in boys in a romantic way, but I'm not around her at school. Maybe I'm wrong. 

While many teenagers are asserting and gaining their independence. Jaycee is becoming independent too but in a different way. Jaycee is learning to do things on her own that other teens probably mastered years ago. She can shower by herself for the most part, but she needs help washing her hair. She hasn't yet mastered zippers, buttons, or tying her shoes. Our solution has been to avoid these when possible. Of course, she has the occasional teenage moment of slamming her bedroom door in anger to something I did. This rarely happens, but when it does, I feel like the mom of any other teenager. I secretly love it!

In short, Jaycee is much like any other girl turning 13. I'm excited to see her grow up and have typical teenage interests. Her speech, fine, and gross motor delays make her teenage years a bit different, but she is becoming her own young woman.

Years ago, I had a multitude of worries as I rocked baby Jaycee and fed her a bottle. Now, I sit with Jaycee on the couch holding a bottle of nail polish knowing that our future will be fun and bright.

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