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Finding Love
by Amy Silverman

It happened tonight for the first time. I was standing over the bathtub, offering my fifth “one minute warning” to get out of the tub, when I looked down and noticed that Sophie was playing with herself. She wasn’t too serious about it, just sort of waving her fingers in the vicinity of her crotch, but trust me, it was happening.

I was so proud.

Annabelle started “tickling” her vagina before she was 3, but we’re rounding the corner to Sophie’s fourth birthday, and till now there’s been no sign of interest. Sophie has Down syndrome, so she’s behind. “Don’t worry,” the pediatrician says. “She’ll do just about everything Annabelle does. It’ll just take her longer.”

I doubt he was thinking about masturbation when he said it. And I know, it’s not real masturbation when they’re preschoolers, but what toddler do you know who doesn’t shove his hands down his pants? Another milestone, I thought proudly, as I lifted Sophie from the tub and wrapped her in a towel, carrying her into the bedroom to smooth lotion on her skin and dress her in pajamas.

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Suddenly, though, it made my preoccupation with getting Sophie laid seem a lot less abstract. Yes, you heard right. When she’s a proper age – I’m thinking 20 or so – I want Sophie to have lots of sex. My husband thinks it’s odd that I keep telling people my goal is for Sophie to find someone she loves and have great sex. I know that most parents of preschoolers are already shopping for chastity belts. But let’s face it, it’s likely that for Sophie, the quote I wistfully put on our wedding program – “All You Need Is Love,” The Beatles – will hold true. Sophie oozes pure love from every pore. The stereotype is dead on.

Ray and I are happily married, but it’s taken a lot more than love. Not so with the couple I saw on Oprah, on Valentine’s Day. Carrie and Sujeet have been featured in the media a lot, since they decided to get married. They both have Down syndrome. They’re adorable. More than that, he plays six instruments and she’s incredibly well-spoken. She said the word “hyperventilate” during the interview, and it was clear as a bell. That is not a typical Down syndrome thing.

For a day or so after my mom called to tell us to watch the rerun of Oprah that night, I was on Cloud Nine. Sophie will fall in love and get married and have sex (Carrie alluded that they do), I thought. Then, as always, I over-thought myself into a funk.

The fact that these two are married is fodder for Oprah. That means this kind of thing never happens. Shit. It’s a sideshow. Carrie and Sujeet’s happily-ever-after is an aberration. An episode of Oprah; a feature in Time magazine.

Then I started to focus on how high-functioning Carrie was, and I wondered if she had the milder form of Down syndrome called mosaicism, in which not all the chromosomes are affected. So I started googling her, and I never found any evidence of that (good news, I suppose – maybe Sophie will be just like her after all), but I did find a chat room started by the parent of a young child with Down syndrome.

The thread was something like, “Looking for adults with Down syndrome who are in love and married.” I got kind of excited, then really depressed. There were several responses, but none were from adults with Down syndrome in love. They were all from other parents of young children, talking about how they’d seen stories about such people – mostly Carrie and Sujeet – and how much hope it had given them for their own children.

There were no adults in love, with Down syndrome, online. I mean, maybe there are, somewhere, but not that night. There are just parents of tiny, lovable children, hoping.

It’s just as well, I thought, standing there over the bathtub, watching Sophie. Suddenly, the whole sex thing was way too real, too inevitable. I think I’ll stop telling people I want Sophie to have great sex and start saying I want her to have good friends. At least now I know she’ll always be, um, in touch with herself.
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About the Author:  
Amy Silverman
lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband Ray Stern and daughters Annabelle and Sophie. When she's not wiping noses and butts at home, she's associate editor of New Times, the alt weekly in Phoenix, where she also spends a lot of time wiping noses and butts -- and editing. She's a contributor to KJZZ, the Phoenix NPR affiliate, and although having kids has pretty much limited her traveling to San Diego and Disneyland, she's been writing quite a bit lately for The New York Times travel section. Amy's proud to say she's been published by both Playboy and Fit Pregnancy, and that John McCain once yelled, "Can't you shut your daughter up?" at her father in the Senate dining room, to which her father responded that that was impossible. Amy likes to balance her motherfucker persona at the alt weekly by co-teaching the Mothers Who Write workshop, which focuses on memoir/fiction and poetry for mothers of all ages and writing experiences.

 

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