For parents, letting go of their kids, even if just for a few hours, can be difficult. The first time the children stay at home with a sitter, go to a friend’s place, or get sent to summer camp can be devastating. A million thoughts go through parents’ minds about everything that could possibly go wrong.
This is doubly true for parents of disabled kids since the likelihood that something goes wrong or their kids aren’t accepted is far greater. Whether disabled or not, children need time away from their parents.
Kids need to meet people outside their families and make their own choices. Independence is an invaluable skill, and they can’t make it through adulthood without it.
It’s okay to be nervous when your kid is away for a few hours—but give them the chance to have fun without you. While things could go horribly, they’re far more likely to go well.
That’s a lesson Tina Szocik of Boston, Massachusetts recently learned.
It all started when Szocik saw a flyer for a school dance.
Szocik is a mother of three girls. While she does her best to look after all her children, she’s especially protective of her 3-year-old, Gigi, who has Down syndrome.
One day as Gigi was coming home from school, Szocik noticed a flyer for the Snow Ball dance inside her folder. The dance was to be a drop-off event for children ages 3 to 6. Knowing that she wouldn’t be able to accompany her daughter, Szocik crumpled up the flyer and threw it out.
“She can’t go, she’s 3 and has Down syndrome. There’s no way I’m dropping her off at a dance on a Friday night,” she told The Mighty.
Yet, one week later, she ran into the school’s director who told her it was a “can’t miss event” and that she should “absolutely send” Gigi. As the director kept talking about the event, Szocik started to reconsider.
Szocik was hesitant to send Gigi to the event because she has Down syndrome.
Szocik knew that the teachers running the event would be kind and respectful to her daughter.
“Every morning we walk into school and all of these unfamiliar faces — unfamiliar to me — greet her by name at the door. It’s obvious they appreciate her,” she said.
Still, she had a lot of concerns:
“That’s a lot of responsibility they’re taking on to have Gigi at this event.”
“She’s well behaved, but isn’t it my responsibility to decide if it’s too much and not safe?”
“Having just turned 3 a couple of months ago, she’ll likely be the youngest there.”
Eventually though, Szocik decided to let Gigi go.
“I decided Gigi had to attend… There is no reason for me to hold her back from this social activity just because of her disability,” she said. “Social events are where we really test the theory of inclusion. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, all I want is for her to be included.”
Down syndrome awareness month is coming to an end so I figure maybe giving an update on how Gigi is doing will spread a…
Once Gigi was all dressed up, it was time to take her to the Ball. Szocik snapped a few pictures of her daughter on the red carpet before heading out with the rest of her family for pizza.
An hour and a half later, Szocik went to pick her daughter up. When she got there, Gigi had just finished dancing.
She was taking a picture with her friends in a photo booth. Szocik had seen these kids greet her on the way into school before, but this was something entirely different.
“If only I could have been a fly on the wall. I can imagine the fun she had … that night was an example of true inclusion, and I was so thankful that her school gave their students this opportunity,” she said.
On Monday morning, teachers stopped Szocik to tell her all about her daughter’s sweet dance moves.
The following school day, multiple teachers informed Szocik that little Gigi could really bust a move to Disney music. Szocik couldn’t believe it. Four months earlier, she couldn’t walk, and now she was dancing well enough to impress others.
When Gigi overheard them talk about her, she started dancing right there. And why not dance? Knowing that you’re loved and included despite your differences is reason to celebrate indeed!