I was known as The Smart Kid when I was growing up. As a result of being The Smart Kid, I got told (a lot) that I could be anything I wanted to be. I was encouraged to “succeed” and somewhere along the way I internalized that I was Special and that I would do things that were Extraordinary. For the past seven-plus years (okay, really for the past 40 years) I’ve done nothing Special at all, and there are times when I look up at the two diplomas on my wall and wonder why in the world I spent so much time and money getting not only a bachelor’s but also a master’s degree, only to now spend my days cleaning up pee and poop, doing laundry, and mopping floors.
I’ve always been one of those people who was more afraid of being overlooked than of being noticed. That is to say, I so want to break away from my introvert tendencies that I have trained myself over the years to “fake” being an extrovert. Some of you who know me (in real life) are probably thinking to yourselves, “Andi? An introvert?” Well, it’s absolutely true, and I’ve got a Myers-Briggs report somewhere to prove it. My husband, on the other hand, is not only an extrovert, but also has what I refer to as “star quality.” When he walks in, people visibly react. When I walk in, nothing.
I figured out a long time ago that Sarah Kate has star quality, too. In the beginning, I thought that everybody knew her just because she was different, but I’ve come to realize over the years that people don’t just know her as “that girl that walks funny” – they know her name. Since moving to the gulf coast a little over two years ago, I can’t tell you how many times she’s been “recognized” by people (including one time when her grandparents were in the checkout line at Wal-Mart without her – all they did was mention her name and someone spoke up “Are you Sarah Kate’s grandparents? I LOVE Sarah Kate!”)
Last night was Get the Facts Night for the parents of the second graders. I begged off and sent Mr. Andi in my place (“Please! I took one for the team by doing the Meet the Teacher thing!”) After the big meeting with all of the parents, Mr. Andi and the other class parents headed down to meet with Sarah Kate’s teacher. A few of the kids in her class this year were known to Sarah Kate, but most of them (and by extension their parents) are new friends. After a very short time, some of those parents told Mr. Andi how much they love Sarah Kate. They have only been in school for three days. A discussion followed about other kids who have cerebral palsy in the school system – two of them actually have younger siblings in Sarah Kate’s class – and at one point in the conversation Mr. Andi mentioned Nathan and that he has Down syndrome. “We know. We saw him at Meet the Teacher.” (So I guess that answers my question about whether or not people can see it).
At first, I wasn’t sure whether I should be flattered or creeped out or (fill in the blank) that these strangers would know things about my children. I haven’t even met these kids yet, much less their parents. My next thought was, “Oh, crap. I looked like death at Meet the Teacher. I hope that’s not going to be the image these folks have of me from now on.” Oh, vanity. Finally, though, I settled on, “Wow. My kids are almost famous (at least here in Mayberry, anyway). I doubt that anyone even paid any attention to me or how I looked.”